14ymedio, Havana, December 21 2019 — The appointment of the Cuban Prime Minister this Saturday was a surprise. Neither female nor mestizo, the man appointed to the new post is a 56-year-old colonel with a beard that recalls the times of the guerrillas who came down from the Sierra Maestra. Manuel Marrero Cruz, the Minister of Tourism since 2004, will occupy the second most powerful position in the executive branch as of this Saturday.
Marrero’s name was barely used in betting circles prior to his appointment. Before entering politics, this architect was head of the technical investment group, deputy director and general manager of the Hotel Río de Luna and then sub-delegate of the military company Gaviota for the eastern provinces.
This Saturday, Marrero Cruz’s unique candidacy for the post “received the unanimous vote of the deputies of the Parliament, gathered in the plenary hall of the Convention Palace of Havana,” published the official press.
For decades, Marrero worked in the military framework that controls the key tourism sector. In 1999 he became vice president of the Gaviota Tourism Group and in 2001 he became president. In 2017 he received the Tourism Excellence Award for his personal and professional career.
Marrero Cruz received the award for having “carried out numerous projects in the (tourism) sector, which has become one of the fundamental engines of the Cuban economy.
With a reputation for having a despotic hand, Marrero is also remembered critically for the message he posted on social networks a few hours after a tornado hit several areas of Havana on January 27. “We have traversed the area after the meteorological event that occurred in our capital last night. All of the tourist facilities are in operation, as they have not been affected,” he tweeted at the time.
“He is inept and surrounds himself with ineptitude,” says a former tourism employee who spoke to 14ymedio and who preferred to remain anonymous. “He’s the kind of boss who likes to let his subordinates know that he’s always above them and that if they contradict him he can ruin their lives. The anonymous worker, who rose through the ranks in the ministry, which Marrero led until today, describes him as someone who “puts personal gain and that of his friends before anything that might benefit tourism in Cuba.”
Other sources consulted agree that “he is someone without a voice or a vote, he does whatever his superior tell him to do, and when they don’t tell him anything he dedicates himself to benefiting powerful partners.” One worker, who was very close to him, defines him briefly: “he never says no when he is called by the Council of State but rarely says yes when his employees ask him for something.”
This man of few words has made more public appearances in the last year due to U.S. sanctions that have hit tourism to the island hard. In early December he announced that the number of travelers who had arrived in Cuba in 2019 had barely exceeded 4 million, far from the 5 million planned for this year.
According to the new constituional charter, Marrero will be in charge of the activities of central state administration bodies, national entities and local administrations in his new role. In addition, he will be empowered to take over, temporarily under exceptional circumstances, the management of any state body.
Among the six deputy prime ministers who will accompany Marrero in his work, the historic Ramiro Valdés and four of the names used in popular circles stand out: Inés María Chapman, Roberto Morales Ojeda, Jorge Luis Tapia Fonseca and Alejandro Gil Fernández, in addition to Ricardo Cabrisas.
His Twitter account reveals much of Marrero’s public projection. He shares messages from Miguel Díaz-Canel, slogans that reaffirm “the continuity” of the new generation of officials in relation to their predecessors and gives ample coverage to phrases said by Raúl Castro.
Marrero’s name did not appear in the biographies of potential candidates for the position that this newspaper had shared this week. On the streets other names were mentioned more often, especially Inés María Chapman and Roberto Morales Ojeda.
In today’s parliamentary session, Miguel Díaz-Canel also proposed to appoint six new ministers: Marta Elena Feito Cabrera for Labor and Social Security; Juan Carlos García Grada for Tourism; Martha Sabina, minister-president of the Central Bank of Cuba; Jorge Santiago Sobrino Martínez, in charge of the Food Industry; Eloy Álvarez Martínez for Industries, and Nicolás Arrente Cruz for Energy and Mines.
In addition, Díaz-Canel appointed Brigadier General José Amado Ricardo Guerra as Secretary of the Council of Ministers.
Translated by: Rafael Osorio
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