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Cuba replaces senior revolutionary figure

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In this photo taken Aug. 1, 2010, Vice President Jose Ramon Fernandez attends a session of the National Assembly in Havana, Cuba. The Communist Party newspaper Granma reported Thursday that the senior official is leaving his post and that he is being name

In this photo taken Aug. 1, 2010, Vice President Jose Ramon Fernandez attends a session of the National Assembly in Havana, Cuba. The Communist Party newspaper Granma reported Thursday that the senior official is leaving his post and that he is being named a special adviser to President Raul Castro in recognition of his service to the country. The 88-year-old former general helped mold the communist country’s new army and commanded defenses at the Bay of Pigs.

Javier Galeano, Associated Press

HAVANA — Cuba replaced one of the most senior officials in Raul Castro's Cabinet on Thursday, an 88-year-old ex-general who helped mold the communist country's new army and commanded defenses at the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Jose Ramon Fernandez, a longtime member of the Communist Party of Cuba and member of its ruling Central Committee, is out as vice president of the Council of Ministers, according to an official notice published by party newspaper Granma.

Jose M. Miyar Barrueco, 79, is also leaving his post as minister of science, technology and environment.

Castro has publicly regretted that Cuba has failed to groom new leadership to take over from the 70- and 80-somethings who occupy many top posts in his government. Preparing the next generation is a priority for his five-year term, he says.

Granma said Fernandez is being named a special adviser to Castro in recognition of his service to the country and lauded "his experience, the positive results under his charge and particularly his contributions to the educational development of the country."

Fernandez, nicknamed "El Gallego" or "The Galician" for his Spanish roots and accent, operated a cadet school that trained officers after Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution, laying the groundwork for Cuba's new army. He later was in the Education Ministry for two decades beginning in 1970.

His replacement is 51-year-old Higher Education Minister Miguel Diaz-Canel, an electrical engineer by training and an oft-mentioned name in speculation about the next generation of leadership.

Diaz-Canel's deputy, Rodolfo Alarcon Ortiz, was promoted to his post.

Granma also announced the departure of Miyar Barrueco, who has appeared weak and infirm in recent years.

Miyar Barrueco, known to be close to Fidel Castro, was named head of a yet-to-be-created government body overseeing the research, development, production and commercialization of medicines.

The new minister of science, technology and environment is Elba Rosa Perez, who has headed the Science Department of the Communist Party's Central Committee since 2006.