The language of dismissals: Each of the cases of the four top regime officials who were recently dismissed seems different
In a closed society like Cuba's it is necessary to read between the lines to decipher much of the news appearing in the media. An example of this is when an official is dismissed, and we must sharpen our senses to detect whether we are dealing with a sacking, a retirement with recognition for a job well done, or a promotion.
There were recently four dismissal of top officials on the Island exhibiting the three aforementioned characteristics. Such were the cases of Julián González Toledo, Yuniasky Crespo Baquero, Rodolfo Alarcón and Marino Murillo.
The terse official notice announcing the removal of Julián González Toledo as Minister of Culture, without acknowledging his work, or the usual "our colleague will now be undertaking other responsibilities," denotes that the man was sacked, and that the General-President was not pleased with his performance.
Actually, Julián González Toledo was always a bland figure, not of sufficient caliber to successfully design cultural policies, who dedicated himself solely to managing resources and visiting art institutions. He was never able to step out of the shadow cast by the powerful Abel Prieto in his position as adviser to Raúl Castro. The latter apparently tired of having such a weak minister, who was barely heard at meetings of the Council of Ministers and sessions of the National Assembly of People's Power.
Rodolfo Alarcón was looking a bit old to continue as the Minister of Higher Education. Now, under the policy of not promoting those older than 60 to the upper echelons, was the ideal time to make changes in the agency's leadership. Alarcón was recognized for his work - he was also deputy minister for several years - which means that he will go on to a retirement in the power structure's good graces. However, the meager future that may await him, living without his rank of minister, may not sit well with a man used to living a life of privilege.
In the case of Yuniasky Crespo Baquero, for some time his physical appearance made his role as the first secretary of the Union of Young Communists (UJC) unfitting. However, at the plenary of the youth organization, at which his replacement was announced, the regime's second-in-command, José Ramón Machado Ventura, said that Yuniasky had performed work yielding "results," and that henceforth he would work in the Party. Obviously, here we are dealing with a promotion.
And now we come to the most high-profile development, as it relates to Island's pressing economic situation: the replacement of Marino Murillo as the Minister of Economy and Planning. There was no need to recognize the work he had done - which they did - to see that Murillo has not lost the higher-ups' confidence. Everything indicates that the General-President believes that reform is progressing, slowly but surely, and has decided that Murillo should devote himself full time to the task of modernizing Cuba's economic model.
It is very likely that there is impatience to get rid of the monetary duality, which could be hindering direct foreign investment in the country – an injection of resources that the Island urgently needs to address the economic contraction that is coming.
It would not be the first time that Cuba's leaders elect to embrace pro-market reforms to fend off the storm that is bearing down on the economy. In the 70s the deluded ideas of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro pushed the country to the brink of ruin. Later, in the 90s, to paraphrase an old Italian film, Cuba ended up "seduced and abandoned" after the Soviet bloc’s disappearance.
Neither is it the first time Murillo has been relieved of his post as minister to work solely on the updating of the model. On that first occasion Adel Yzquierdo was tapped to head up the Ministry of Economy and Planning (MEP). But, apparently the latter was not a good fit in the office, and Murillo returned to the MEP. Now we'll see whether the work of Ricardo Cabrisas allows the economic czar to concentrate on the implementation of reform.