Castro's aide becomes foreign minister
May 28, 1999
HAVANA (CNN) -- Cuban President Fidel Castro named personal aide Felipe Perez on Friday to replace Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina, long considered Castro's possible successor, the government announced Friday.
The appointment of the 34-year-old Perez, considered a Castro loyalist, likely will shore up the Cuban leader's power base and increase his control over foreign policy, analysts said.
Perez, a member of Cuba's ruling Council of State and a deputy in Cuba's unicameral legislature, has been seen with Castro at all official engagements in recent years. He rose from the Cuban Students' Union (FEU), where he was hand-picked by Castro to be chief of staff.
Friday's change, the first in a senior ministerial post in several years, was announced in a statement carried simultaneously by state media Friday.
Robaina, 43, oversaw the communist country's international policies during years of extreme economic hardship following the collapse of the former Soviet Union. He had been regarded as a reformer since his appointment as foreign minister in 1993, according to analysts.
Through his almost constant travels around the world, Robaina was credited with helping Cuba expand and strengthen its ties with many nations, following the loss of communist allies.
But analysts and diplomats said he may be paying the price for the negative international fallout from Cuba's measures against internal opponents earlier this year, particularly the trial and conviction of the so-called Group of Four dissidents.
The observers did not rule out his being given another high-profile post, possibly with a view toward galvanizing Cuba's youth in favor of the government.
Friday's statement said Robaina would be moved to another government post, without elaborating.
"The previous minister, comrade Roberto Robaina Gonzalez, who made the best efforts to carry out the tasks he was responsible for in his time, remains free of the post until he is assigned new functions," the statement added.
Castro meets U.S. legislators visiting Cuba
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