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Manuel Marero is Cuba’s new Prime Minister

white concrete building under blue sky

The Cuban National Assembly appointed Manuel Marero as new prime minister last Saturday, an office that had ceased to exist in the Caribbean country since 1976 but was re-established this year, state media reported.

Marero, 56, who has studied architecture, has been the tourism minister since 2004.

The proposal to call Prime Minister Marero “was approved by the Political Bureau of the Communist Party,” President Miguel Diaz-Canel told members of parliament.

The National Assembly, which meets twice a year, convened Friday and Saturday morning to implement many of the reforms envisaged in the revision of the Constitution adopted in April, including the re-appointment of the chief of staff.

The former prime minister of the Cuban government (1959-1976) was Fidel Castro.

President Diaz Canel has overly broad powers and will now “assist the Prime Minister in fulfilling his duties“, Granma, a body of the Cuban Communist Party, had recently explained.

“The prime minister will be able to appoint or replace chiefs and functionaries” of public services, central government and the state and will exercise control over the work of provincial governors.

Marero began his career in 1999, when he became vice president of the large armed Gaviota hotel group, before retiring a year later.

Although an official of the Communist Party, it is not – unlike many other Cuban leaders – a member of the Central Committee at present, nor of its supreme body, the Political Bureau.

In proposing his appointment, President Diaz Canel praised the new prime minister’s “modesty, honesty, humility in his job, political sensitivity and loyalty to the party and the revolution”.

Marero “remarkably directed the tourism sector, one of the key development axes of the national economy,” the head of state added.

The head of the tourism ministry for 15 years turned this field of activity into the most important for the island’s economy, closing dozens of deals with foreign groups and cultivating relationships with the growing private sector. He has managed to bypass the sanctions imposed by the US.

In the one year and eight months since Miguel Diaz-Canel took office, most ministerial portfolios have changed hands, as the Cuban government mechanism is undergoing a generation change.

“The head of government will be the president’s right hand in the exercise of power,” commented the state-run Cubadebate news website.

According to William Liograd, a professor of public administration and a Cuban specialist at the American University of Washington, the role of a prime minister differs greatly from that in multi-party systems. “It’s a division of responsibilities rather than a division of powers,” he explains.

Fidel Castro remained prime minister until 1976, when the post was abolished and the emblematic leader of the Cuban revolution became head of the Communist Party, the State Council and the Cabinet. He handed over power to his brother Raul in 2006. He died in 2016. Raul Castro resigned as president in 2018, but remains head of the Communist Party.

Under the new constitution, President Diaz Canel is no longer the head of the State Council – the role of the president of the National Assembly is taken over by Esteban Lasso – nor of the cabinet. However, he retains the last word.

Government officials describe the changes of the Cuban government structures as a process of increasing scrutiny and transparency, improving bureaucratic management and a state-controlled economy.

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