Friday, July 23, 2010

Cuba sets shake-up for powerful health minister

Posted on Thursday, 07.22.10
Cuba sets shake-up for powerful health minister
The Associated Press

HAVANA -- Cuba has replaced its long-serving health minister, the latest
in a flurry of recent leadership changes by the government of President
Raul Castro.

Jose Ramon Balaguer, 78, will rejoin the powerful Central Committee of
the Communist Party, according to a statement read Thursday night on
government-run television. It saluted Balaguer for his work, but offered
few details on why he was replaced.

Balaguer had held the post since 2004, when he was a surprising choice
to replace Damodar Pena, an official made health minister in 2002 as
part of a then effort to promote younger leaders.

Trained as a physician, Balaguer was a founding member of Cuba's
Communist Party and has been an ideological hard-liner for decades.

Replacing him will be 43-year-old Roberto Morales, a fellow physician
who had been first vice minister of health.

Cuba provides free health care for all citizens, making the health
minister an influential position - but the Cabinet shake-up was one of
many of late.

In June, Cuba fired its transportation minister for professional
mistakes and replaced the head of the Sugar Ministry after he admitted

Those moves came after the March 23 replacement of Attorney General Juan
Escalona Reguera, who fought under Fidel and Raul Castro in the rebel
army that toppled dictator Fulgencio Batista on New Year's Day 1959.
Health problems were cited as the reason.

Also in March, Rogelio Acevedo, who as a teenager fought alongside the
Castros and Ernesto "Che" Guevara, was abruptly dismissed as the
overseer of Cuba's airlines and airports for unexplained reasons.

Cuba has since been awash with rumors that Acevedo was secretly running
his own airline and otherwise misusing state aircraft. The speculation
was eventually mentioned in a controversial essay on state corruption
posted on a government website in April.

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