The First Secretary of the Communist Party in Santiago de Cuba Is Replaced

Beatriz Johnson during a meeting in Santiago de Cuba in 2019. (Office of the Conservator of the City of Santiago de Cuba/Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, February 1, 2024 — The first secretary of the Communist Party in Santiago de Cuba, José Ramón Monteagudo Ruiz, was replaced this Thursday after being in office for less than three years. Instead, in front of the party organization, Beatriz Johnson Urrutia, who served as governor of the eastern province, was named as his replacement.

The change was announced during the Plenary of the Provincial Committee of the Party attended by President Miguel Díaz-Canel. An official statement announced the decision to “free Monteagudo from his responsibility” and included a recognition for his work in “confronting tasks in the political, economic and social order with urgency and creativity.”

After his departure, the official “returns to the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC),” the text explains. Monteagudo had been appointed secretary of the PCC in the province in October 2021, a time that coincided with the worsening of the economic crisis on the Island and the social deterioration.

Several sources consulted by this newspaper point to the increase in violence and insecurity in the streets of Santiago de Cuba as part of the reason for the appointment of Johnson, more knowledgeable in the field and with a long history as a political and partisan cadre.

The substitution was announced during the Plenary of the Provincial Committee of the Party attended by President Miguel Díaz-Canel

A chemical engineer graduate, Johnson, age 54, held several managerial and administrative responsibilities at the José Mercerón Allen Cement Factory. Subsequently, she was general manager of the Cemento Santiago de Cuba Joint Venture, belonging to the Ministry of Construction.

Before being elected governor of the province, she served as vice president and president of the Provincial Assembly of the People’s Power of Santiago de Cuba. She has a reputation as an energetic person, absolutely faithful to the guidelines of the PCC and with very colloquial expressions in her public pronouncements.

In August 2022, a demonstration in the Luis Dagnes neighborhood in the People’s Council of Altamira, Santiago de Cuba, was joined by several residents to protest the blackouts and the precarious economic situation of the city. Military forces arrived, and Johnson also showed up to ask the neighbors for “patience.” She told them the blackout schedules in the area were going to be reviewed.

The official is also associated with the organization of acts of repudiation and police operations at the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu) where the house of opposition leader José Daniel Ferrer is located. He has been in prison since the popular protests of July 11, 2021.

Johnson now has the difficult task of leading, in the second most populous city in the country, a partisan organization in frank deterioration, with a diminished number of militants and paralyzed by the lack of political reforms. Inflation, popular unrest, growing blackouts and mass exodus complete a rather bleak picture for her mandate.

To that is added the violence expressed in frequent murders, robberies and assaults. Recently, a lieutenant colonel of the Ministry of the Interior acknowledged in public that young people, armed with knives and machetes, and organized into violent gangs, “implant terror” in Santiago de Cuba.

A video of the meeting released at the end of last month shows dozens of residents of the Santiago neighborhood Abel Santamaría listening to the officer’s speech, surrounded by other police officers. Its purpose was to report the arrest of five young members of a gang who, wielding knives, assaulted a cafeteria in the early morning of January 7.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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