Cuban Military’s Tribute to Lopez-Calleja Sounds Like a Warning Before Another July 11th (11J)

Raúl Castro, former father-in-law of López-Calleja, lays a rose in  his honor. (Revolution Studios)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 3 July 2022 — A tribute to Division General Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja, who died on July 1, was held this Saturday in the Granma room of the Ministry of the Armed Forces (FAR). The military ceremony was carried out “without uttering words” and stripped of “unnecessary protocols, just as Luis Alberto was in life”, affirms a note from the Granma newspaper.

Members of the Political Bureau of the Party and the Government participated in the tribute, “comrades” of Rodríguez López-Calleja in the FAR Business Administration Group (known by its acronym, Gaesa, but which the government media have begun to designate as simply GAE) and “historic leaders” who no longer frequent the public scene, such as José Ramón Machado Ventura or the former father-in-law of the deceased himself, Raúl Castro.

Also part of the ceremony  were Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel; the Prime Minister, Manuel Marrero Cruz and the former First Vice President of Gaesa, Ania Guillermina Lastres Morera.

Hidden behind the first line of participants were Déborah Castro Espín, daughter of Raúl Castro, and designated by the official newspaper Granma note as the “widow” of Rodríguez López-Calleja, although they had been divorced for a long time; Raúl Guillermo Rodríguez Castro, El Cangrejo [The Crab], and Vilma Rodríguez Castro, strangely described as “older children” of the deceased, although there is no evidence that Rodríguez López-Calleja had more children, at least within his marriage to Déborah Castro.

All those present deposited roses in front of the urn with the remains of the deceased, “with visible signs of pain.” Some fragments of the ceremony were broadcast on the national television news.

Several aspects of the posthumous tribute are striking. In the first place, the military nature of the ceremony, in which most of the participants wear FAR uniforms. Among the latter, was the bodyguard and security chief of his grandfather, Raúl Castro. The Crab, as he is also known, wears the two stars of lieutenant colonel on the collar of his shirt (the dark green color corresponding to the Ministry of the Interior), the rank to which he was promoted in 2021.

The second assistant with the most striking uniform (located on the far right of the second line) is the current first vice president of Gaesa, Ania Guillermina Lastres Morera.

The military nature of the ceremony is striking, in which the majority wear FAR uniforms. (Revolution Studios)

On the epaulettes of Lastres Morera you can see the additional star to the three that correspond to colonel, which means that she holds the rank of first colonel, recently created in the Armed Forces, preceding the rank of brigadier general.

It is surprising that Lastres Morera appears in a military uniform when her public biography avoids any mention of her membership in the FAR. The official encyclopedia Ecured describes her career as that of a simple economist who, in 1984, worked as a specialist in the Directorate of Economic Collaboration and Material Fund of the Ministry of the Armed Forces, and later deputy head of the Special Section for Economy and Finance of the same ministry. In 2012 she was elected deputy to the National Assembly of People’s Power for Marianao. She does not mention the date on which she joined Gaesa, and she is often singled out as a “favorite” to succeed Rodríguez López-Calleja in managing the conglomerate.

The military “reaffirmation” of characters who have appeared as civilians until now seems to suggest that, with the death of López-Calleja, the Armed Forces are launching a message to revalidate their political and economic influence. The presence of Raúl Castro and other generals (and even the portrait of the deceased, dressed as a division general of the FAR) are some more elements in favor of this interpretation.

Both the official note on the death of the former son-in-law and the information on his funeral underline the paternal-filial character between him and Raúl Castro. The obituary points out “his consecration, responsibility and proven loyalty to the Party, to the Commander in Chief and to the Army General, whom in addition to his boss he considered a father.”

On the other hand, the tribute affirms that Castro “deposited a white rose before the mortal remains of his son, who with such dedication put his life at the service of the Homeland and the Revolution.”

No official media has yet reported on the identity of the successor to occupy the presidency of Gaesa, described by the official press as “a model business system that serves as an example to the country, for having demonstrated its efficiency.”

The unexpected death of López-Calleja comes at an extremely delicate juncture for the power structure in Cuba, on the eve of the first anniversary of the massive July 11 protests.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.