HAVANA – Two of Cuba's most prominent officials have resigned from all Communist Party and government posts after they were criticized by Fidel Castro, as a major leadership house-cleaning continued to send shock-waves through the country's power structure.
In letters carried in the state-controlled press Thursday, Vice President Carlos Lage and ousted Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque acknowledged they had committed errors — which were not specified — and promised to continue serving the country. Neither offered any apology, however.
The two were dismissed from Cuba's Cabinet, the Council of Ministers, as part of a broad shakeup on Monday. A day later, former President Fidel Castro published a statement alleging they had been seduced by "the honey of power" and hinted the two were demoted because their angling for leadership roles in a post-Castro Cuba had become unseemly.
The brief letters reproduced in official newspapers and read on state radio and television throughout the day used strikingly similar language. Both were addressed to President Raul Castro and pledged loyalty both to him and Fidel, as well as to the Communist Party.
"I recognize the errors committed and assume responsibility," Lage wrote on Council of Ministers letterhead. Perez Roque's letter said, "I fully recognize that I committed errors," adding, "I assume my total responsibility for them."
Foreign analysts have often described Lage, 57, and the 43-year-old Perez Roque as potential leaders of Cuba once 82-year-old Fidel and 77-year-old Raul Castro leave the scene. The next-in-line under Cuba's constitution is Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, 78.
Both men were members of the elite Council of State as well as the Cabinet, and Lage was also one of the country's vice presidents and a member of the party's ruling Political Bureau.
Also Thursday, official newspapers Granma and Juventud Rebelde identified Jorge Marti Martinez as head of the International Relations Department of the Communist Party's Central Committee. The post previously was held by Fernando Remirez de Estenoz, a well-known diplomat who once headed the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, which the government maintains instead of an embassy because it has no diplomatic relations with the United States.
There was no information about Remirez de Estenoz or whether he was removed from his post.
Both Lage and Perez Roque were close to the elder Castro. Lage, a former Communist Youth leader, oversaw the limited economic reforms of the 1990s that helped keep Cuba's economy from collapsing following the loss of billions of dollars in annual subsidies and favorable trade agreements from the Soviet Union.
Perez Roque was Fidel Castro's personal secretary before becoming foreign minister in 1999 and he reportedly kept in close touch with Fidel even after the leader dropped from public view because of illness in July 2006. Raul Castro formally assumed the presidency a year ago.
Both Lage and Perez Roque also had been members of Cuba's parliament, which meets just two weekends a year and does little more than unanimously approve measures proposed by top communists.
In his letter, Lage wrote to Raul Castro, "informing you that I am quitting my post as member of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party and its Political Bureau, and my position as (parliament) deputy, member of the Council of State and vice president of the Council of State."
In eerily similar fashion, Perez Roque wrote: "I inform you of my decision to quit my post as member of the Council of State, deputy of the National Assembly of People's Power and as member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba."