Wednesday, July 22, 2009


* Fear and terror in the CUBAN Politboro led by Raul Castro.

Shades of Stalin purge trials and those of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. MASSIVE PURGE OF SENIOR COMMUNISTS IN CUBA by RAUL.

Cuba's Raúl conducts purge by video

By Marc Frank in Havana

Published: July 15 2009 03:00 | Last updated: July 15 2009 03:00

It is not the stuff of Khrushchev unmasking Stalin, nor the fall of China's Gang of Four, but a three-hour film being shown to thousands of the Cuban Communist party's 1m members this summer has emerged as a rare admission that all is not well at the pinnacle of power in Havana.

The video footage is drawn largely from a March meeting of the Communist party politburo and features Raúl Castro, the president, sacking most of the cabinet he inherited from his ailing brother, Fidel, including prominent political figures such as Carlos Lage, vice-president and Felipe Perez Roque, foreign minister.

The presentation's main message, according to people who have seen it, could not be clearer: the state is watching and Raúl will not tolerate even the slightest breach of party discipline, any cosying up to foreigners, or a hint of disloyalty as he attempts to put his brother's revolutionary house in order.

The montage of footage from the meeting, recorded telephone conversations, surveillance video, photographs and testimony narrated by a state security official provides a rare glimpse of Cuba under Raúl, who formally took over from Fidel in February 2008.

Party faithful who are invited to screenings are not allowed to bring in recording devices, or even a pen and paper. A trip to the lavatory is forbidden, as is attendance by the public or foreign journalists.

But in interviews with the Financial Times, people who have attended showings recounted details of the presentation and what appears to be a concerted effort by Raúl to portray a number of his brother's prominent aides, including Carlos Valenciaga, Fidel's personal aid for almost a decade, as either foreign lackeys or politically -disloyal.

Mr Lage was viewed by many inside and outside the country as a future president, and Mr Perez as perhaps the next in line. Both were personally groomed by Fidel and held up as apparent examples of loyal and austere communists. Their dramatic fall from grace has left many puzzled and wondering if a political purge was under way.

Those involved in the scandal are uncontactable and plainclothes security agents have been observed surrounding Mr Lage's residence, presumably to keep the foreign media at bay.

In the video montage, the president is seen waving Cuba's constitution, demanding that it be respected, and changed where needed. He criticises the Council of State, a 31-member executive stamp much used by Fidel to govern, as having little, if any, practical purpose.

"If it [the council] can't be reformed it should be eliminated," he says, according to people who have seen the presentation.

Sitting in his general's uniform behind a desk scattered with papers, Raúl speaks of the importance of institutions and of following rules and regulations. He tells his new cabinet they have 90 days to put their domains in order and to set priorities. He says that, after that, he does not want to see much of them, as he assumes they can perform their jobs.

Later, he looks around the politburo and states: "I am now going to talk of painful things."

The president announces the arrest of Conrado Hernández, the Cuban representative of the Basque regional government's business operations, and reads Mr Hernández's confession, in which he says he informed for Spain's National Intelligence Centre, using his lifelong friendships with Mr Lage and other protégés of Fidel.

Mr Hernández details the information and favours he received from each man and the role each played in a clique of the disgruntled officials who considered Cuba's ageing leadership unfit to govern, a clique that included Dr Raúl Castellanos Lage - a former party leader, cardiologist and Mr Lage's cousin, who first became the target of investigations after he declared that stent placements for elderly leaders should be botched for the good of the nation.

"Don't worry, we arrested Castellanos this morning," Raúl says in the video.

The president asks the accused if they have anything to say. The best they apparently offer is ignorance of their friend's intelligence ties.

By this point some older theatre goers were rising from their seats to shout that the accused should be imprisoned if not shot for treason, witnesses at three different Havana showings said.

The presentation later features the wedding party of Dr Castellanos at the Ambos Mundos Hotel in Havana. The luxurious fiesta took place on February 23 2008, the day the politburo met to approve a new president, first vice-president and other Council of State members for their "election" the following day by parliament.

The clique had viewed Mr Lage as a sure bet to win the position of first vice-president, the second most powerful post after the presidency.

In the video, Mr Lage arrives at the wedding from the politburo meeting to inform Mr Perez on a hotel balcony that Jose Ramon Machado Ventura was named first vice-president, violating an order by Raúl to keep the news secret until the parliament vote. An infuriated Mr Perez swears and states that Mr Machado will ruin the country. With the party mood evaporating, Mr Hernández leaves to inform Spain's intelligence service of the decision, according to his confession.

Mr Hernández is in prison on charges of treason, as is Dr Castellanos. The cabinet members and Fidel protégés remain free. Mr Perez is working at an electronics factory and Mr Valenciaga at the national library, while Mr Lage remains holed up at home.

The apparent indiscretions documented in the presentation have been registered by younger members of the Communist party. But whether the message has been received as intended remains unclear.

"All these people were promoted by the party, obviously it shares the blame," one younger party member told the Financial Times.

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