The executor of the Castro family dies, the fight to replace him begins

HAVANA, Cuba.- In the morning hours of today, Friday the 1st. of July passed away Suddenly in Havana, due to respiratory arrest, Division General Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja. Ex-son-in-law of the dictator Raúl Castro and President of the Business Administration Group of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (GAESA).

Born in 1960, son of Division General Guillermo Rodríguez del Pozo (1929-2016) and Cristina Lopez-Calleja Hiort-Lorenzen (who still survives him)Luis Alberto was considered, until the moment of his death, as the most powerful man in Cuba for his role as administrator of the family clan’s fortune, precisely because for decades he had been strategically placed at the head of the most important business and financial conglomerate. of the communist regime.

Married in the 1980s to Deborah Castro Espín, Luis Alberto was sent to study Business Administration in the former Soviet Union where he graduated with a Gold Degree. Upon his return to Cuba, his father-in-law, at that time Minister of the Armed Forces, He found a place for him in the armed institution as second head of the Economic Department, headed by General Julio Casas Regueiro, also a trusted man, the true creator of GAESA, who trained the young man in his role as executor.

Although for years —even during the period in which Raúl Castro took the reins of power from his brother Fidel (2008-2018)— López-Calleja was kept in the shadows without holding positions of relevance in political power, months before the most recent restructuring of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Cuba —where he was elected as a member, as well as a deputy to the National Assembly— and during the transfer of powers to Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, the intention to give him greater prominence in decision-making, so he was always seen accompanying the current ruler both in official meetings and on trips abroad.

Thus, the so-called “owner of the hotels” on the Island, for having more than 90 percent of the existing facilities, visited New York in September 2018 together with Díaz-Canel; At the end of 2019, he was part of the delegation that traveled to Europe with the Cuban president, and that same year, during the Non-Aligned Summit, he appeared at the epicenter of the regime’s official delegation together with Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, which presaged that very soon, once Raúl Castro died, he would come to occupy more important spaces in public life, thus ensuring that the Castro family would remain in power in a visible way.

For the Cuban dictatorship, Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja was not a simple military man or trusted man in charge of business. He was considered by those who knew him personally as the true “financial brain” of Castroism and his management against GAESA in recent years is due to the fact that a military entity that participated almost as equals in the Cuban economic scene along with other companies and institutions related to tourism and foreign investment, in just under a decade it will end up absorbing more than 80 percent of the commercial, export, financial and investment activities on the Island.

The power of GAESA, just as a hotel group, is indisputable. For example, by November 2014, Gaviota SA managed to position itself at number 55 in the ranking of the 300 largest chains in the world, and at number 3 in Latin America.

GAESA is the only Cuban entity “not auditable” by the Comptroller General’s Office and which is allowed to fully assume the investment, construction and administration activities of its hotel facilities, as well as dispose, for its own benefit and as a priority, of any projected plot or building or with potential for foreign investment, in addition to controlling the main financial entities —regardless of the provisions of the Central Bank of Cuba—, among them the International Financial Bank, Fincimex or the Havana International Bank of London (Havin Bank LTD).

Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja was in charge of generalizing and instituting throughout the Cuban economy the methods tested by the Economic Department of the Armed Forces. The most recent and controversial examples would be, in addition to the desire not to stop the construction of more hotels —despite the worsening of the economic, tourism and health crises—, the creation and multiplication of currency collection stores (MLC) , praised by Raúl Castro himself in his report to the 8th. Congress of the Communist Party as a strategy to stimulate the sending of remittances by exiles, and framed in a GAESA scheme that integrates from the commercial establishments themselves, the supplier system, import agencies and financial entities.

When Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja died suddenly, despite the signs of “normality” that the official media will try to project to public opinion, and while the military chiefs – together with Raúl Castro, his son General Alejandro Castro Espín and his grandson Raúl Guillermo Rodríguez Castro (son of the deceased and head of the Department of Personal Security of the Ministry of the Interior) – do not agree on who will be the definitive substitute, without a doubt it will be unleashed within the true structures of power in Cuba a power struggle whose immediate and long-term consequences we do not know at the moment.

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