Cuba gets first prime minister since Fidel Castro

Cuba’s Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz

Cuba has elected its first Prime Minister in 43 years.

In a nomination quickly approved by the country’s parliament, Manuel Marrero Cruz, 56, took office as Cuba’s 17th prime minister on December 21.

The post was last held by Fidel Castro who served from 1959 to 1976 when a change in the constitution changed his position to president and eliminated the role of prime minister.

Marrero’s career in government began in 1999 where he served as vice president of the Gaviota Hotel Group and later went on to become president until 2004. He was appointed by Castro in 2004 where he saw tourism grow to one of the country’s largest earners of hard currency and allowed for significant change in Cuba’s economy.

Manuel Marrero Cruz has been named Cuba’s first prime minister in 23 years.

“Throughout his career… (Marrero) has been characterised by his modesty, honesty, work capacity, political sensitivity and loyalty to the party and the revolution,” said Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel.

Diaz-Canel nominated Marrero and the National Assembly unanimously approved the decision. Under the new constitution, the prime minister, who was nominated by Diaz-Canel, will serve a five-year term and will take on some of the responsibilities that currently fall to the president, including daily operations of government as head of the Council of Ministers.

His appointment forms part of a process of decentralisation in wake of recent constitutional reform in the country. Fidel Castro held the presidential post until he stepped down in 2008 for health reasons. His brother Raúl assumed the post as president that same year, along with Cuba’s other highest positions such as Communist Party leader, before stepping down in 2019.

A constitutional referendum was held back in February, and for the first time in over 40 years, Cubans were allowed to express their opinions as it relates to the country’s economic and political system. In April, a new constitution came into effect with several major changes, including the restoration of the position of Prime Minister of Cuba. Other major changes to Cuba’s traditional economic and political model include the recognition of private property and foreign investment.