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Raul's surprise choice for Cuba's new No. 2 is a "demanding" hard-liner

Raul's surprise choice for Cuba's new No. 2 is a "demanding" hard-liner

The surprising appointment of Jose Ramon Machado Ventura as President Raul Castro's No. 2 is a clear sign that Cuba's top leadership wants to solidify old-style communist values.
A physician who helped organize the revolutionary government's Health Ministry, Machado Ventura has been a leading behind-the-scenes force in Cuba's government for more than four decades since he joined the Castro brothers' uprising against dictator Fulgencio Batista in the 1950s.
Half-joking, Raul Castro referred to Machado Ventura's administrative mean-streak while addressing parliament on Sunday.
"He's demanding. I mean really demanding," the new president said. "Sometimes I've told him personally that he's strict _ not necessarily in a nice way."
Machado Ventura, at 77 a year older than the new President Castro, is expected to offer few new ideas for economic or political reform.
But many call him Raul Castro's right-hand man, and his promotion should provide the new president with a like-thinker as he consolidates power.
Machado Ventura already was a top leader of the Communist Party's Central Committee and Politburo, and one of the few people Fidel Castro named to specific new duties when he fell ill in July 2006. Machado Ventura's role during Raul Castro's caretaker presidency was to oversee Cuba's international education programs, which included making sure school programs promoted socialist teachings.
It is unclear when Machado Ventura last practiced medicine, but he has not been seen wearing a doctor's white coat in public for at least a decade, and has focused in recent years on his responsibilities with the Communist Party.
Machado Ventura was born in San Antonio de las Vueltas, in central Cuba, on Oct. 26, 1930. He became a revolutionary when Batista seized power on March 10, 1952, and joined the Castro brothers' rebels in Cuba's eastern mountains long before Batista's government fell in 1959.
The choice surprised many who saw 56-year-old Cabinet secretary Carlos Lage as the odds-on favorite for No. 2. Lage, a key architect of the modest economic reforms of the 1990s, was among the most visible Cuban officials since Fidel Castro first fell ill in July 2006. Lage retained his post as one of five vice presidents.


Updated : 2021-07-23 23:50 GMT+08:00