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7 Top Officials Out at Key Cuban Ministry

From Times Wire Services

Seven top officials in Cuba’s Interior Ministry have resigned or been fired, the government announced Friday, one day after the execution of four military officers, thus providing the latest twist in the nation’s highly publicized drug-smuggling and corruption scandal.

The sweeping changes at the ministry, which has been blamed for failing to uncover the smuggling operation sooner, were first disclosed on the front page of the official newspaper Granma following Thursday’s execution by firing squad of Cuban war hero Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez and three others who were convicted of treason and other crimes in connection with the scandal.

Two of the four who were executed, former Col. Antonio de la Guardia and former Maj. Amado Padron, were Ministry of Interior officials. Ten other ministry officials, including one woman, were also convicted in the case but given long prison terms.

‘General Housecleaning’

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A Cuban official called the shake-up “part of a general housecleaning at the ministry.”

Granma said six resignations, which were handed in Thursday, were caused by “deficiencies committed by the (ministry’s) leadership . . . which gave immunity” to those convicted.

Four top Interior Ministry officials, including intelligence chief Gen. German Barreiro Carames, resigned along with two departmental deputies, Granma said. A seventh top official was fired.

Barreiro was replaced by Maj. Gen. Jesus Bermudez Cutino, who most recently was intelligence chief of the Ministry of the Armed Forces.

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Maj. Gen. Pascual Martinez Gil, the deputy interior minister, also stepped down and was replaced by Maj. Gen. Romarico Sotomayor, chief of staff of the Eastern Army, which has jurisdiction in the eastern third of the island. He is also a substitute member of the Communist Party’s Central Committee.

In a report by the Cuban government news agency Prensa Latina, in a dispatch monitored in Mexico City, Martinez Gil resigned “in view of the irregularities that occurred in this institution by a group of officers, activities that went unpunished for 2 1/2 years.”

The news agency added that both Martinez Gil and Barreiro “will be employed in other tasks” but gave no details.

The four others who resigned were identified as Gen. Amado Valdez, chief of the border patrol; Gen. Miguel Bermejo Labrada, chief of the fire department, and Manuel Suarez Alvarez and Felix Veliz Hernandez, deputy chiefs of the ministry’s political section. A seventh official, Brig. Gen. Roberto Gonzalez Caso, was fired as chief of immigration. Their replacements were not given.

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