Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas the executive chairman of the powerful conglomerate Gaesa

Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas

By El Toque

HAVANA TIMES – This Friday, July 1, 2022, Major General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas died in Havana at the age of 62, following a cardiorespiratory arrest, according to official media.

Although further details of his death are unknown, unofficial sources claim he suffered from lung cancer. Faced with the unexpected news, many are wondering who will inherit all the positions and powers that Raul Castro’s right-hand man had.

Son of General Guillermo Rodriguez del Pozo, Chief of the General Staff of National Civil Defense, and former son-in-law of Raul Castro, Lopez-Calleja’s career and power were marked by his relationship with the Castro family. Although he kept a low profile and the state media did not report on his activities, he was publicly presented as an adviser to the president during an official visit by Miguel Díaz-Canel to Mexico in September 2021.

Lopez-Callejas was known for leading the Grupo Empresarial de Administración SA (Gaesa), belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), and which controls the Tiendas Caribe channel; various import/export companies such as Tecnotex, Tecnoimport, Cubagro and Ecasol; and real estate companies like Almest, Caribe and Aurea.

For several years, Cuban and foreign analysts have warned of Gaesa’s excessive control over the Cuban economy, which intensified after Raul Castro took over the country’s presidency in 2008.

Within the group of companies, one of the fundamental pieces is the company Cimex SA, which in turn manages a large part of the internal trade and under whose control there are the Pan-American stores, the Photoservice, the Cupet-Cimex Servicentros, Coral Negro Jewelry, Fincimex, Banco Financiero Internacional, Havanatur, Havanautos, Melfi Marine and the Specialized Logistics and Trade Area (ZELCOM SA). Universal Stores SA with the Mariel area and the Gaviota tourist group are other gems in Gaesa.

Gaesa is also a 44.2% shareholder in Etecsa, the Cuban telecommunications monopoly. Investigations by the Miami Herald, ADN Cuba and Diario de Cuba have shown that Gaesa officials or relatives of Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, such as his brother Guillermo Faustino Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, run businesses outside of Cuba. Lack of transparency characterizes all of Gaesa’s activity, leaving the public without access to holding company information or the means to demand accountability.

Lopez-Callejas was born on January 19, 1960 in Santa Clara, Villa Clara. In October 2021 he was elected deputy to the National Assembly of People’s Power for the municipality of Villa Clara de Remedios. According to local newspaper Vanguardia, the vote that elected Lopez-Callejas as a member of the Cuban parliament was held to fill a vacancy after the death of another deputy, Antonio Perez Santos.

The possibility of filling vacancies is exercised by municipal delegates, even though it is in theory a recognized right of citizens: that of directly electing the members of the National Assembly. On the other hand, the election of deputies for a territory other than that where they reside is a common practice in Cuban politics; these are for example the cases of Miguel Diaz-Canel and Raul Castro.

One of the concerns of citizens at the time Lopez-Callejas was elected deputy was rooted in the premature, not unexpected, election. However, this designation as an MP of the late leader of Gaesa seemed to respond to the power of the Council of State to define when and which vacancies in Parliament are filled. It is a convenient power from the political point of view, since it allows those who control the electoral panorama to have mechanisms that legitimize the processes of empowerment or access to public functions in the highest spheres, for which it is essential to be an MP.

During the official visit of the Cuban delegation to Mexico on the occasion of the anniversary of the independence of this country, Lopez-Callejas was presented as adviser to the Cuban president. Tel deduced that his appointment as a deputy responded to the logic of public accountability of senior Cuban officials.

He became a member of the Communist Party’s Central Committee in 2011 and its Politburo in 2021, after the 8th CPC Congress.

Lopez-Callejas’ profile on the Cuban Parliament’s website indicates that, since before 1990, he had a working relationship with the upper echelons of power in Cuba. He worked in the Ministry of Foreign Trade and was at the time the liaison officer of the Minister of the FAR, Raul Castro, with the Directorate of Economic Collaboration of Foreign Trade. In 1990, he joined the military counterintelligence and carried out an internationalist mission in Angola.

He held the position of section chief and of the V Department of the Armed Forces which, according to former agents of Counterintelligence, controls the economic, accounting and financial part of the Armed Forces. Since 1996, he has led the business administration group.

Lopez-Callejas has been a member of the PCC’s Political-Economic Commission since its creation in August 2006. Since 2011, he has headed the Government Commission for Attention to the Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM). According to an investigation by El Nuevo Herald, the general was considered the “main interlocutor” of the Cuban government. Currently, the general director of ZEDM is Ana Teresa Igarza Martínez, a former military judge, who was Gaesa’s legal director.

In October 2011, Luis Alberto Rodríguez was appointed president of the Cuban Institute for the Coordination of Collaboration and Investments with Angola; country to which Gaesa’s control extends through the Antillian Export Corporation (Antex) which, in turn, manages six companies in Angolan territory with activities ranging from the export of professional services to investments in construction.

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