Raul Castro shakes up Cabinet

Cuban President Raul Castro on Monday gave his Cabinet an unprecedented, wide-sweeping shake-up that experts say shows the Cuban leader is moving toward doing things his way — efficiently, and surrounded by the military brass he trusts.

Among those who lost key posts were longtime Fidel Castro loyalist Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque and Vice President Carlos Lage, the youngest and most visible members of Castro's team.

Although he will remain as vice president of the more important council of state, Lage was replaced as secretary of the council of ministers by a military general who last served as Castro's chief of staff at the defense ministry. A brigade general was also named minister of the Iron and Steel Industry.

Lage's departure from the council of ministers and the recent promotions of three others close to Raul Castro leaves the Cabinet leadership in the hands of members of the armed forces and people in his closest confidence. Some Cuban exile leaders in Miami fear that the dozen personnel moves announced on Cuban television's midday newscast after the sports and weather reports show Castro is closing ranks and consolidating power.

His choice to tap a military general underscores how Castro — Cuba's longest serving defense minister — wants to be surrounded by members of the institution he knows and controls best: the armed forces. The Cuban American National Foundation said the moves were reminiscent of Russian Communist leader Joseph Stalin and are "demonstrative of the regime's desire to place additional control of the government in the hands of the Cuban military."

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