Cuba replaced health minister
Jose Ramon Balaguer, 78, will rejoin the powerful Central Committee of the Communist Party, according to a statement read Thursday night on government-run television. It saluted Balaguer for his work, but offered few details on why he was replaced.
Balaguer had held the post since 2004, when he was a surprising choice to replace Damodar Pena, an official made health minister in 2002 as part of a then effort to promote younger leaders.
Trained as a physician, Balaguer was a founding member of Cuba's Communist Party and has been an ideological hard-liner for decades.
Replacing him will be 43-year-old Roberto Morales, a fellow physician who had been first vice minister of health.
Cuba provides free health care for all citizens, making the health minister an influential position — but the Cabinet shake-up was one of many of late.
In June, Cuba fired its transportation minister for professional mistakes and replaced the head of the Sugar Ministry after he admitted incompetence.
Those moves came after the March 23 replacement of Attorney General Juan Escalona Reguera, who fought under Fidel and Raul Castro in the rebel army that toppled dictator Fulgencio Batista on New Year's Day 1959. Health problems were cited as the reason.