Another leading official ousted
By WILFREDO CANCIO ISLA
The purge of Cuba’s elite ranks has claimed yet another
victim amid a strong hint that Fidel Castro is healthy enough to have returned
home from the hospital where he had convalesced at least part of the time
since emergency surgery in 2006.
The latest known victim of the purge announced Monday was Fernando Remírez de Estenoz, former chief of the island’s diplomatic mission in Washington and most recently head of the Cuban Communist Party’s Foreign Relations Department.
Meanwhile, Honduran President José Manuel Zelaya told reporters as he ended a Havana visit that he had met with Castro at his home for 1 ½ hours Wednesday.
Spain’s EFE news agency quoted Zelaya as saying he found Castro ”lucid” and added, “The way in which he handles Latin American political topics and the affairs of the [international] economic crisis is extraordinary.”
Zelaya’s comments came after recent reports that Castro has been seen walking around the Jaimanitas area west of Havana, which is near his home in the Siboney neighborhood.
In April 2007, China’s Xinhua news agency reported that Castro was in ”a hospital” when he met with a Beijing delegation. Photos from that meeting showed the same room that appeared in several photos of Castro over the next several months.
Cuba released a photo of Castro meeting with Dominican President Leonel Fernández this week. But Fernández and other foreign leaders who met with Castro in the past have not said where the encounters took place.
Remírez de Estenoz, 57, was considered part of the group of top Cuban officials who were just one generation behind the island’s current rulers, mostly men in their late 70s, like President Raúl Castro and Vice President José Ramón Machado Ventura. His ouster has not been noted in the official media, although one Foreign Ministry official told El Nuevo Herald that the news is circulating in Cuba.
On Wednesday, the state-run National Information Agency issued a report on the meeting between Castro and Zelaya that mentioned Jorge Martí Martínez as the head of Communist Party’s Foreign Relations Department.
Martí served as Cuba’s ambassador to Russia 2003-2008. In July, he was appointed head of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the People, which promotes solidarity with Cuba overseas.
The removal of Remírez de Estenoz appears linked to the massive government restructuring and political purge announced Monday that replaced 12 senior officials, including Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque and Carlos Lage, vice president of the ruling Council of State.
`HONEY OF POWER’
Fidel Castro wrote in a column Tuesday that Lage and Pérez Roque had succumbed to the undignified “honey of power.”
Both resigned from all their other government and party jobs in letters made public Thursday, acknowledging having made ”mistakes” but not detailing them.
The letters were addressed to Raúl Castro, who ”temporarily” replaced his older brother Fidel after his 2006 surgery and in 2008 was officially elected as president of Cuba’s ruling Council of State.
Remírez de Estenoz was known to be a close friend and collaborator of Lage from the days when they both studied medicine in Havana and became leaders of the Communist Youths’ Union.
It remained unclear whether Remírez de Estenoz will also lose his positions as a member of the Communist Party’s Central Committee Secretariat and the legislative National Assembly.
One of the best-known members of the new generation of Cuban leaders forged under the revolution, Remírez de Estenoz was named in 1981 to lead the international relations section of the Communist Youths’ Union. He was succeeded in that post by Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, who took over as foreign minister earlier this week.
In 1992, Remírez de Estenoz was named as first vice minister of foreign relations. A year later, he was appointed as Cuba’s ambassador to the United Nations and later headed the Cuban Interests Section in Washington from 1995-2001, playing a large role in the Elián González case, the boy who survived a treacherous journey across the Florida Straits and ultimately was returned to his father in Cuba.
After Remírez de Estenoz left Washington, he resumed his role as first vice minister of the Foreign Ministry until his designation in 2004 as the head of the Communist Party’s Foreign Relations Department.