President Raul Castro abruptly ousted some of Cuba's most powerful officials Monday, remaking the government in the biggest shakeup since he took over from his ailing brother Fidel Castro a year ago. The changes replaced some key Fidel loyalists, including the longtime foreign minister, with men closer to Raul. "This would seem to indicate this is a consolidation of Raul, which then makes you think, what about Fidel?" said Vicki Huddleston, America's top diplomat in Cuba from 1999 to 2001. Analysts saw no immediate indication that the changes are related to hopes for closer U.S.-Cuban ties. Among the changes:
FOREIGN MINISTER: Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, No. 2 in the ministry, replaces Felipe Perez Roque, the most prominent among those ousted. Perez Roque had been widely mentioned as a possible future president.
SECRETARY OF COUNCIL OF MINISTERS: Brig. Gen. Jose Amado Ricardo Guerra, long Raul Castro's secretary at the defense ministry, replaces Vice President Carlos Lage. Lage apparently kept his job as vice president of the Council of State.
Cabinet vice president: Hardliner Ramiro Valdez Menendez, who fought with Fidel, Raul and Ernesto "Che" Guevara in the revolution that toppled the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959, replaces Otto Rivero Torres.
Economy Minister: Longtime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez was replaced by Internal Commerce Minister Marino Murillo Jorge.
FINANCE MINISTER: Lina Pedraza Rodriguez, of the Central Committee of the Communist Party's Secretariat, replaces Georgina Barreiro Fajardo.