HAVANA — Two of Cuba's most prominent officials have resigned from all Communist Party and government posts after they were removed from the Cabinet and criticized by Fidel Castro, according to letters published Thursday in the state press.
The letters from Vice President Carlos Lage and ousted Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque acknowledged they had committed errors — which were not specified — and promised to continue serving the country. Neither offered an apology for any wrongdoing, however.
The two were dismissed from Cuba's Cabinet, the Council of Ministers, as part of a broad shakeup on Monday. A day later, former President Fidel Castro published a statement alleging they had been seduced by "the honey of power" and hinted the two were demoted because their angling for leadership roles in a post-Castro Cuba had become unseemly.
The two brief letters reproduced in official newspapers used strikingly similar language. Both were addressed to President Raul Castro and pledged loyalty both to him and Fidel, as well as to the Communist Party.
"I recognize the errors committed and assume responsibility," Lage wrote on Council of Ministers letterhead. Perez Roque's letter said, "I fully recognize that I committed errors," adding, "I assume my total responsibility for them."
Foreign analysts have often described Lage, 57, and the 43-year-old Perez Roque as potential leaders of Cuba once 82-year-old Fidel and 77-year-old Raul Castro leave the scene. The next-in-line under Cuba's constitution is Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, 78.
Both men had been members of the elite Council of State as well as the Cabinet, and Lage was also one of the country's vice presidents and a member of the party's ruling Political Bureau.
Close to Fidel Castro
Though the leadership changes announced Monday made clear neither man would continue in the Cabinet, what would happen to their other posts was not clear until their letters were made public Thursday.
Both Lage and Perez Roque also have been close to the elder Castro. Lage, a former Communist Youth leader, oversaw the limited economic reforms of the 1990s that helped keep Cuba's economy from collapsing following the loss of billions of dollars in annual subsidies and favorable trade agreements from the Soviet Union.
Perez Roque was Fidel Castro's personal secretary before becoming foreign minister in 1999 and he reportedly kept in close touch with Fidel even after the leader dropped from public view due to illness in July 2006. Raul Castro formally assumed the presidency a year ago.
Both Lage and Perez Roque also had been members of Cuba's parliament, which meets just two weekends a year and does little more than unanimously approve measures proposed by top communists.
In his letter, Lage wrote to Raul Castro, "informing you that I am quitting my post as member of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party and its Political Bureau, and my position as (parliament) deputy, member of the Council of State and vice president of the Council of State."
In eerily similar fashion, Perez Roque wrote: "I inform you of my decision to quit my post as member of the Council of State, deputy of the National Assembly of People's Power and as member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba."
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