Cuba's first prime minister in more than four decades, long-serving tourism minister Manuel Marrero, took office Saturday as the country resurrected a post last held by Fidel Castro.
The appointment of Marrero, 56, as head of government is part of a process of decentralization and generational change from the revolutionary old guard that is aimed at extending and protecting Communist Party rule.
"This proposal was duly approved by the political bureau of the Communist Party of Cuba," President Miguel Diaz-Canel said, presenting it to the country's National Assembly, which unanimously signed off.
Immediately after his presentation, Marrero received a handshake from former President Raul Castro, the leader of the Communist Party. Marrero "is not coming to the job to transform, but rather to implement and manage. The president is the one who leads," said Cuba specialist Arturo Lopez-Levy of Holy Names University in California.
Marrero served as tourism minister from 2004, late in revolutionary hero Fidel Castro's administration, continuing in the post under Fidel's brother Raul and the current president, Diaz-Canel. He began his career in government in 1999 as vice president of the powerful Gaviota Hotel Group belonging to the armed forces, becoming its president a year later, a post he held until 2004.
"Throughout his career... [Marrero] has been characterized by his modesty, honesty, work capacity, political sensitivity and loyalty to the party and the revolution," Diaz-Canel said. The new premier "has led the tourism industry in a commendable fashion, which constitutes one of the main lines of development of the national economy," he added.
The position of prime minister was last held by Fidel Castro in 1976. But the post was abolished when Castro transitioned to the presidency, taking over from Osvaldo Dorticos after the country's constitution was restructured.
Cuba's constitution required that the candidate come from the 605-member National Assembly, be at least 35, "be a Cuban citizen by birth and hold no other nationality." The premier has the power to hire and fire state employees as well as overall control of provincial governors, another position restored under the new constitution.