Updated at: 12/12/2012 1:06 PM
By PETER ORSI
(AP) HAVANA - Cuba has named Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez to the Communist Party’s powerful Political Bureau, cementing his position among the most highly placed next-generation leaders on the island.
The Political Bureau sits at the top of the party’s leadership structure and plays a central role in guiding the direction of the nation, though it does not have the power to enact or enforce laws.
Communist Party newspaper Granma reported Wednesday that President Raul Castro said Cuba must urgently break with what it called the "blockade of thinking that still persists when the time comes to select and prepare young leaders."
Castro has repeatedly spoken of the need to promote fresh leadership, in an acknowledgment that the aging revolutionary generation that has dominated Cuban politics for decades will not be around forever. Fidel Castro, 86, is retired and largely out of sight. Raul Castro is 81, and his top two lieutenants are also octogenarians.
Granma did not say whether Rodriguez is replacing one of the 14 people currently on the Political Bureau or is an addition to its ranks.
Rodriguez, 54, is a former Havana University law professor and ambassador to the United Nations who speaks English fluently. He was deputy foreign minister from 2004-2009.
Other younger faces on the Political Bureau include economy czar Marino Murillo, tapped to implement Raul Castro’s economic reform plan; Lazara Mercedes Lopez Acea, the Communist Party’s regional boss in Havana since 2009; and Miguel Diaz Canel, vice president of the Council of Ministers and former minister of higher education.
More leadership change could come in February, when Cuba’s parliament is scheduled to convene and expected to name Raul Castro to a new five-year term. Observers think the time could be ripe to replace some of his coterie of longtime aides, though it’s unlikely that a clear presidential successor would emerge.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)