Published: Friday, 1 September, 2006, 12:01 PM Doha Time
HAVANA: In the first cabinet change since Raul Castro, 75, took communist Cuba's interim presidency a month ago, a seasoned 74-year-old was named yesterday as new communications chief.
The Council of State led by Castro - who replaced his brother, ailing 80-year-old Fidel Castro, at Cuba's helm as he recovers from intestinal surgery - announced that Ramiro Valdez would replace Ignacio Gonzalez Plana as minister for computers and communications.
The politburo of the Cuban Communist Party recommended the appointment approved by the 31-member council, an official statement said.
Fidel Castro stunned Cubans when he announced in a statement on July 31 that he was recovering from intestinal surgery and had temporarily ceded power to Raul, his constitutionally designated successor and the Caribbean nation's defence minister, for the first time in 48 years.
Authorities have said Castro would be back in charge as soon as he feels better, but have become less insistent on the topic as the weeks go by.
Castro himself, in one of the few statements attributed to him, said Cubans should remain optimistic but brace for possible bad news.
Analysts and a great many Cubans believe that even if he does return to office following surgery, it will be with a greatly reduced workload, and possibly only in a ceremonial position.
That would mark a major change for the bearded leader who micromanaged the country for almost five decades and regularly lectured Cubans on a wide variety of topics, ranging from alleged US threats to the proper use of a pressure cooker.
Analysts believe that Raul, who lacks his brother's popularity, would be likely to delegate far more than Fidel ever did. - Agencies