(Updates with analyst comment in third paragraph)
Nov. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Cuban General Leopoldo Cintra Frias, who joined Fidel Castro’s rebel movement in the 1950s, was appointed the island nation’s defense minister, the government said.
Cintra, 70, assumes the position following the death of Julio Casas Regueiro in September. General Alvaro Lopez Miera, 68, replaces Cintra as vice-minister of defense, state-run Granma newspaper reported today on its website.
President Raul Castro is appointing trusted allies who can manage potential unrest as the government eases state control over the economy, said Philip Brenner, a professor of foreign policy at American University in Washington. On Nov. 3, the government said it would lift a half-century ban on residents buying and selling property, allowing Cuban’s to own homes for the first time since the country’s 1959 revolution.
“They are dismantling the government in many ways,” Brenner said in a phone interview today. “People are going to be out of jobs and have to figure out new ways to organize their daily lives, so there could be disorder.”
Since Fidel handed power to his brother in 2006, Raul Castro, 79, has loosened controls prohibiting private enterprise such as taxi and mobile phone companies. Last year, the president announced plans to fire 500,000 government employees and encouraged them to start up their own businesses.
The military plays a large role in the Cuban economy, including running farms, Brenner said. Castro had been defense minister before taking over as president.
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