Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

May 28, 1999, Cuba Free Press.

THE DOWNFALL OF A MINISTER By Tania Quintero, Cuba Free Press,

HAVANA - On May 28, Cubans "woke up" to the news - which could be heard from early in the morning on "National Time/News Radio," the station which covers the entire island and broadcasts 24 hours a day - Roberto Robaina Gonzalez had been dismissed from his post as the foreign relations minister for the Republic of Cuba.

As proposed by Fidel Castro, the new chancellor will be Felipe Perez Roque, 34, an engineer by profession. He has served for seven years as one of the closest assistants to the Cuban leader. In his years as a student, Perez Roque was the president of the Federacion Estudiantil Universitaria (University Student Federation, FEU) and his leadership of that organization was characterized by some observers as one of "total commitment to the communist dogma and Castro's revolution."

The official news bulletin appeared in "Granma." On the streets the news didn't create much of a stir or concern. Cubans have known for a long time that placing and removing an official from his post is none of their business and few are bothered by the comments from abroad about political figures in Cuba.

Waiting in line for more than one hour for bread, a lady who used to be a librarian told Cuba Free Press that "Robertico," who once had been a Communist Youth leader whose style gave a measure of dynamics to the aging communist organization and who had been named as chancellor overnight, was no longer deserving of the trust to represent Cuba in international forums.

She said, "I had no clue that Robaina was no longer in the inner circle; just last night on a television news program he had appeared signing a document alongside the foreign relations minister from Trinidad Tobago. If I remember correctly, they even said that he was soon to embark on a tour of several Latin American countries."

For one who is truly concerned about renewal at the highest spheres of Cuban communist power, the change, which had been foreseen, could be viewed from several distinct angles. (For comments made by this journalist see the breaking-news headlines of May 7: Where is Roberto Robaina?)

"For me this represents a clear sign that the hard-liners have won. They are the most conservative and orthdox. But some analysts could consider the youth of Perez Roque as 'positive' and interpret it as a sign that some changes are taking place," said a professional who asked to remain anonymous.

Another well-informed individual voiced his concern about the real causes behind Roberto Robaina's firing, noting that it took place barely a month away from the Rio de Janeiro Summit. There for the first time, leaders from the European Union will meet with leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean. Also some six months away is the Ninth Ibero-American Summit on Nov. 15-16 in Havana.

Opinions aside, over several hours the "bomb" - firing-of the chancellor - will take a great deal of room on the wire services. The man who was "made fun of" because of his casual way of dressing - in Spain they called him "the salsa chancellor" - will be put on the "pajama plan" until the "leadership of the country assigns him to new revolutionary endeavors."

It seems Roberto Robaina got himself "mortally wounded" in Geneva when the member countries of the Human Rights Commission for the United Nations sat the government in Havana once again on the bench of the accused. He's passed on now, politically speaking. "May he rest in peace."

By Tania Quintero, Cuba Free Press

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