General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Calleja, one of Cuba's most powerful men, died on Friday of a heart attack, state media reported, leaving a critical hole in the political and economic leadership of the communist-run island.
Lopez-Calleja, 62, was a key member of Cuba's political bureau, the ruling Communist Party's highest decision-making body. He was once married to former Cuban leader Raul Castro´s daughter Deborah.
A short article in party newspaper Granma lamented Lopez-Calleja's passing and hailed his "brilliant record of services to the Homeland and the Cuban Revolution".
Lopez-Calleja kept a very low profile, rarely appearing in photos or on television, but his influence, especially over the economy, had increased markedly since President Miguel Diaz-Canel succeeded Castro in 2018.
A close confidant of Castro, Lopez-Calleja was also head of GAESA, a conglomerate of military-owned companies that manage much of Cuba's economy, from luxury hotels for tourists to the supermarkets that sell goods to Cubans in foreign currencies.
The death of the general, who was also an advisor to Diaz-Canel, is not likely to reduce GAESA's importance but is a setback for its leadership, according to William LeoGrande, a professor of government at American University in Washington.
"Lopez-Calleja played a central role in the success of the foreign-exchange-earnings businesses under the umbrella of the GAESA conglomerate," LeoGrande said.
"Whoever succeeds him, both at GAESA and in the political bureau, will immediately become one of Cuba's most influential leaders, especially on economic policy," LeoGrande said.
In 2020, then-U.S. President Donald Trump
put Lopez-Calleja on a U.S. blacklist that prohibited U.S. people or companies from dealing with him.