Cuba Shakes Up Scandal-Ridden Ministry
MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Seven senior officials have resigned or been replaced in Cuba’s scandal- struck Interior Ministry after the execution of four military officers for drug-smuggling, an official Cuban report said Friday.
The deputy interior minister, Maj. Gen. Pascual Martinez Gil, asked to step down Thursday ″in view of the irregularities that occurred in this institution by a group of officers, activities that went unpunished for 2 1/2 years,″ said the Cuban government news agency Prensa Latina in a dispatch monitored in Mexico City.
He was replaced by Maj. Gen. Romarico Sotomayor, chief of staff of the Eastern Army and a substitute member of the Communist Party’s Central Committee.
The scandal has shaken President Fidel Castro’s government, embarrassing him and the Communist Party. For years, he had denied U.S. accusations his nation was being used for drug shipments, saying the reports were a plot to tarnish the revolution.
The officers were executed at dawn Thursday after a trial that the government widely publicized. The Cuban news agency did not say exactly when the seven Interior Ministry officials were replaced, but it did indicate they left after the executions.
Also blamed for failing to stop the smuggling, German Barreiro Carames resigned and was replaced by Maj. Gen. Jesus Bermudez Cutino as chief of intelligence at the Interior Ministry, the news agency reported. It added that both Martinez Gil and Barreiro Carames ″will be employed in other tasks,″ but it gave no details.
Castro fired the head of the Interior Ministry, Maj. Gen. Jose Abrantes, on June 26 for failing to detect the smuggling ring, official media have said.
Maj. Gen. Abelardo Colome Ibarra, his replacement, was installed with orders from Castro to ″take measures that make a repetition of these deficiencies impossible.″
Colome, 50, is Cuba’s third-ranking officer after Castro and his brother, Defense Minister Raul Castro. Colome has been a member of the party’s Central Committee since 1965 and of the Politburo since 1980.
Abrantes was fired shortly after the drug scandal broke with the arrest of Maj. Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa, once a trusted aide to Castro and a hero of Cuban military expeditions to Africa.
Ochoa, 57, was one of the four executed officers.
In addition to the deputy minister and the intelligence chief, five other senior officers have left the Interior Ministry in the shakeup reported Friday by Prensa Latina.
Those who resigned were identified as Amado Valdez, chief of border guards; Miguel Bermejo Labrada, chief of the forest fires department; and Manuel Suarez Alvarez and Felix Veliz Hernandez, deputy chiefs of the Ministry’s political section.
Brig. Gen. Roberto Gonzalez Caso was fired as chief of immigration, the news agency said.
Their replacements were not given.
Ten other officers, including one woman, were imprisoned in connection with the scandal and are serving prison sentences from 10 to 30 years long.
All worked in a secret section at the Interior Ministry involved in an effort to circumvent an economic embargo imposed by the United States against Castro’s communist government in 1963.
A court-martial convicted them of smuggling cocaine and other contraband for their own profit.