Cuba replaces its attorney general, a former rebel fighter, for health reasons

By Will Weissert, AP
Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cuban attorney general out due to health reasons

HAVANA — Cuba announced its second leadership shake-up of the month on Tuesday, replacing Attorney General Juan Escalona Reguera, who fought under Fidel and Raul Castro in the rebel army that toppled dictator Fulgencio Batista more than half a century ago.

A brief statement read on Cuban state television said the 78-year-old Escalona Reguera was leaving his post for health reasons. He apparently remains a member of the Communist Party Central Committee.

A lawyer by training, Escalona Reguera is one of the most veteran figures in Cuba’s revolutionary leadership, joining Raul Castro’s rebel column in eastern Cuba in 1958, and presiding over the wedding of Raul Castro and Vilma Espin the following year. He served as a brigadier general and top administrator before becoming justice minister in 1983, and head of parliament six years later.

Escalona Reguera also acted as chief prosecutor during the controversial 1989 drug smuggling and treason case that led to the execution by firing squad of decorated war hero Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa, who had led Cuban troops on the battlefields of Angola and Ethiopia.

Escalona Reguera’s replacement is Brig. Gen. Dario Delgado, who had been deputy attorney general.

Tuesday’s statement said Escalona Reguera would be assigned “other duties” on the Council of State, Cuba’s highest governing body.

On March 9, Cuba abruptly announced it had replaced another veteran revolutionary, Rogelio Acevedo, who had overseen its airlines and airports and as a teenager fought alongside the Castros and Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

Unlike with Escalona Reguera, no reason was given for the removal of the 68-year-old Acevedo, who played a key role in expanding Cuba’s tourism industry.

Escalona Reguera was born in the eastern city of Santiago in 1931, attended law school and became a member of the Communist Party. He said party officials balked at his decision to join the Castro brothers’ rebellion, which they initially viewed with suspicion.

After Batista fled on New Year’s Day 1959, Raul Castro served as defense minister for nearly 50 years before taking over the presidency from Fidel — first temporarily, then permanently — in July 2006.

Escalona Reguera helped organize the post-revolutionary trials of Batista government, military and police officials, as well as civilian supporters of his government, following the revolution. Many were convicted and executed.

Escalona Reguera also was briefly punished himself — sent to perform manual labor — in the early 1960s, when he was accused of favoring former Communist Party members over other revolutionaries in assignments.

(This version CORRECTS to 50 years, sted ‘half decade,’ in graf 10.)

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