“Historical” Cuban official José Ramón Balaguer dies at the age of 90

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HAVANA — José Ramón Balaguer, a longtime member of Cuba’s communist leadership who, as health minister, sent thousands of the island’s doctors on missions to win hearts and minds in Venezuela and developing countries around the world, has died at the age of 90.

An official statement read on state television late Friday reported the death, although no reason was given. It said his ashes would be venerated in the Pantheon of Veterans in Havana before being taken to eastern Cuba, where he was born.

Balaguer served as health minister from 2004 to 2010, after a dozen years as the ideology leader of the Communist Party, struggling to ensure adherence to Marxist principles as the island tumbled through an economic crisis sparked by the collapse of its former Soviet benefactors.

He was elected to the Communist Party Central Committee in April 2011 and served as head of international relations for the governing body, although he gave up his seat in the more powerful Politburo, which he held for decades.

Born on June 6, 1932 in Guantanamo, Jose Ramon Balaguer Cabrera was only six years younger than Fidel Castro and was an important member of Cuba’s oldest surviving generation of leaders, known as “Historicos” or “Historics” because of their roles in the cuban revolution.

Balaguer served in the rebel army that catapulted Castro to power with the revolution’s victory over Fulgencio Batista in January 1959.

Although trained as a doctor, Balaguer devoted most of his life to politics and government. He was Cuba’s last ambassador to the Soviet Union, the island’s closest ally for decades.

Balaguer has long been considered an orthodox ideologue fiercely loyal to Fidel Castro.

During the economic and political crisis that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was Balaguer that Castro appointed in 1992 to head the Communist Party’s ideology and foreign policy department. Balaguer replaced Carlos Aldana, who was fired for “living above the people.”

Balaguer also sat on the nation’s top body of government, the Council of State, which Fidel Castro chaired as president before resigning due to illness in February 2008. Castro’s younger brother, Raul, replaced him as president and was later appointed leader of the Communist Party. Raul Castro resigned as president in 2018 and as party leader in 2021.

Balaguer’s appointment as health minister, at the suggestion of the elder Castro, came as a surprise signaling growing ideological control over key government posts.

At the time of his appointment, the Communist Party newspaper Granma said the change showed “the importance and intensification of the efforts that the Cuban public health program now requires, both inside and outside the country.”

In 2019 he retired from public office.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/historic-cuban-official-jose-ramon-balaguer-dies-at-90/2022/07/16/2e4b53e4-0505-11ed-8beb-2b4e481b1500_story.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_world “Historical” Cuban official José Ramón Balaguer dies at the age of 90

Dustin Huang

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