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Cuban leader pays tribute to late defense minister

(Xinhua)

14:19, September 06, 2011

HAVANA, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) -- Cuban leader Raul Castro on Monday led a memorial service for late Cuban Defense Minister and Vice President Julio Casas Regueiro, who died at the age of 75 after suffering a cardiopulmonary arrest at the weekend.

Paying tribute to Casas Regueiro, Castro bestowed a posthumous decoration on the late general, honoring him as "Labor Hero of the Republic of Cuba."

The medal, one of the highest honors in Cuba, was awarded to Casas by the State Council for his "outstanding record of service to the Revolution and his defense of the national economy," according to a decree read by State Council Secretary Homero Acosta.

Casas Regueiro had been a close ally of Castro who named him defense minister after taking office in 2008.

An accountant by profession, Casas Regueiro was the architect of the economic program that turned Cuba's armed forces into a "self-profitable company" as part of the reforms covered by Castro's "new economic model" which was approved last April at the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party.

In order to make military budgets more self-sufficient, Casas Regueiro set up the "Gaviota tourist group" to bring in hard currency for the army, launched a military industry capable of producing and maintaining weaponry and created military agricultural enterprises.

The Cuban State Council has declared three days of official mourning for Casas Regueiro, who ranked fourth in the Cuban hierarchy.

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