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Cuba’s economic czar heads new generation of leaders
Question of the Day
HAVANA — When Raul Castro acknowledged recently that it was time to hand over power to younger leaders, few were expecting the 80-year-old president to name somebody even older than himself as his No. 2.
But at least one figure from Cuba’s post-Revolution baby boom is on the rise: Marino Murillo Jorge has been charged with implementing make-or-break economic reforms designed to both loosen the state’s ironclad control and save Cuban socialism.
The blunt-talking, 50-year-old economist stands at the head of a very small class of relatively prominent, relatively youthful Cuban officials who have broken out of obscurity and taken up positions alongside the silver-haired generation that has ruled this island since 1959.
Mr. Murillo’s age sets him apart from most of the other 14 members of the Communist Party’s ruling council, which is headed by Raul Castro and First Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, also an octogenarian.
Rapid ascent has sometimes been perilous under Fidel and Raul Castro. In 2009, two rising stars thought to be possible successors, Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque and Vice President Carlos Lage, were fired and shamed in the official news media before disappearing from the public eye.
He said officials erred in the past by promoting the wrong young people, not by undercutting them, and that leadership changes could be in store at a party gathering in January.
“The very top level of government and party leadership remains almost entirely in the hands of the revolutionary generation, of the oldest generation,” said Philip Peters, a Cuba analyst with the Virgina-based Lexington Institute. “So the task remains to bring younger leaders into the top leadership.”
Mr. Murillo is Raul Castro’s economic czar, tasked with guiding Cuba through what is arguably its greatest challenge since the “special period” of the early 1990s, when billions in aid and trade from Moscow disappeared along with the Soviet Union.
Few details about Mr. Murillo are a matter of public record, including basic questions such as where he lives, whether he’s married or if he has any children.
Multiple requests by the Associated Press to interview Mr. Murillo or other officials were not granted, and his bare-bones Communist Party bio gives only his date of birth, education and a brief rundown of his prior posts.
By Andrew P. Napolitano
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