14ymedio, Havana, 1 July 2022 — Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja, executive president of the Armed Forces Business Administration Group (Gaesa), died in Havana this Friday of “cardiorespiratory arrest,” according to the official press.
A former division general, born in 1960, he was considered the true “strong man” of Cuba, the power behind the throne. He was previously married to one of the daughters of Raúl Castro and Vilma Espín, Déborah, and was the father of Raúl Guillermo Rodríguez Castro, El Cangrejo [The Crab], his grandfather’s bodyguard.
Last October, López-Calleja joined the list of deputies, and joined Parliament in a ceremony in Remedios (Villa Clara). The soldier was elected with 98.5% of the votes cast by the delegates and replacing the late Antonio Pérez Santos.
Until then, the general had been a man with a discreet profile and, although he was a member of the Central Committee of the Party and executive president of Gaesa, he had remained in the shadows. Under his leadership and the military boot, the Gaesa almighty conglomerate became the head of the Cuban economy, controlling foreign exchange stores, hotels, real estate investments, construction companies, port services, remittance and currency exchange agencies, services customs and electronic commerce, all with little transparent handling.
An example of this is the building that is being built at 23rd and K, in the heart of Havana’s Vedado, projected as the tallest in the capital, planned as a luxury hotel, at a time when the country is going through the worst crisis economy since the Special Period. The military’s management has also been criticized in the case of the Saratoga hotel, destroyed by a gas explosion on May 6, whose management was seized in 2016 from the Office of the Historian of Havana to hand it over to Gaesa.
In September 2020, the US placed López-Calleja on the Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctions list, a list that includes individuals and organizations with which US citizens and permanent residents are prohibited from doing business and which It also implies freezing the accounts they have in that country.
Some analysts wanted to see his emergence on the political board as a master move by Raúl Castro, a theory according to which Díaz-Canel is a burned-out politician who enjoys no popular acceptance and must be replaced soon. Death has frustrated any chess move for López-Calleja.
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