Cuba replaced the oldest official in Raul Castro's Cabinet on Thursday, an 88-year-old ex-general who helped mold the communist country's new army and commanded defenses at the Bay of Pigs invasion.
Jose Ramon Fernandez, a longtime member of Communist Party's ruling Central Committee, is out as vice president of the Council of Ministers, according to an official notice published by party newspaper Granma.
Jose M. Miyar Barrueco, 79, is also leaving his post as minister of science, technology and environment.
Castro has publicly regretted that Cuba has failed to groom new leadership to take over from the 70- and 80-somethings who occupy many top posts in his government. Preparing the next generation is a priority for his five-year term, he says.
Granma said Fernandez is being named a special adviser to Castro in recognition of his service to the country and lauded "his experience, the positive results under his charge and particularly his contributions to the educational development of the country."
Fernandez, nicknamed "El Gallego" or "The Galician" for his Spanish roots and accent, was imprisoned before Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution for joining a dissident group of military officers. The new government assigned him to run a military cadet school that laid the groundwork for Cuba's new army. He later was in the Education Ministry for two decades beginning in 1970.
Fernandez was best known to many abroad as the official face of Cuban sport, serving as head of the Cuban Olympic Committee since 1997. Granma did not say if he has left that post as well.
His replacement is 51-year-old Higher Education Minister Miguel Diaz-Canel, an electrical engineer by training and an oft-mentioned name in speculation about the next generation of leadership.
Diaz-Canel's deputy, Rodolfo Alarcon Ortiz, was promoted to his post.
Granma also announced the departure of Miyar Barrueco, who has appeared weak and infirm in recent years.
Miyar Barrueco, known to be close to Fidel Castro, was named head of a yet-to-be-created government body overseeing the research, development, production and commercialization of medicines.
The new minister of science, technology and environment is Elba Rosa Perez, who has headed the Science Department of the Communist Party's Central Committee since 2006.
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