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CUBAN OFFICIAL STRIPPED OF POWERS

A leading government official confirmed Friday that Cuba's communist ideology and foreign policy chief - the island's third most powerful leader - had been sacked for "living above the people."

Politburo member Roberto Robaina said in a news conference in the Mexican capital that Carlos Aldana had been stripped of his powers for "grave and serious errors of a personal nature." The statements were the first official confirmation of Aldana's removal.Robaina said Aldana's posts would be divided among several lower-ranking officials, implying an even greater concentration of authority in the hands of President Fidel Castro.

The fall of Aldana, whose power had grown considerably in recent years, was reported Wednesday by Mexican media citing unnamed Cuban officials.

Aldana lost seats on the small Communist Party secretariat and the 25-member Politburo.

Robaina, who heads the Communist Party youth wing, said Aldana had been living in luxury while Cuba's leadership was imposing austerity measures on the people because of an economic crisis.

He called Aldana's removal "a ratification of an important policy of the revolution - that nobody can place himself above the people." He did not elaborate.

Robaina said the news had not yet been published in Cuba.