Cuban president sacks economy minister as controversy grows over price hikes


HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel sacked economy minister Alejandro Gil on Friday, state media reported, as controversy continued to grow over the delay of recently announced measures to hike the price of fuel and transportation fares in the communist-run country.

The Council of State, under Diaz-Canel`s direction, has appointed Central Bank president Joaquín Alonso, 60, to replace Gil.

The upheaval comes just two days after the government put off an unpopular five-fold hike in gasoline prices planned for Feb. 1, saying a cyberattack from outside Cuba had thwarted implementation.

The decision, which was followed by a similar announcement to delay a rise in public transportation rates, threw into disarray a broader economic plan to tame Cuba’s growing fiscal deficit.

Former economy minister Gil had advocated for the unpopular plan to raise prices for many government subsidized services, and has long been criticized for his management of the country`s near-bankrupt economy.

Gil’s planned price hikes, initially announced in December and early January, rocked Cuba, where residents have long depended on a vast program of state subsidized food, fuel and medicine.

Diaz-Canel also sacked on Friday his Science, Technology and Environment Minister Elba Rosa Perez, putting in her place Dr. Eduardo Martinez, lawmaker and president of BioCubaFarma, a Cuban pharmaceutical company.

The Food Industry Ministry will now be headed by lawmaker Alberto Lopez, 56, governor of Santa Clara province, who replaced Manuel Santiago Sobrino, state-run media reported.

(Reporting by Nelson Acosta, editing by Dave Sherwood, Kirsten Donovan)



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