Cuba sacks, replaces minister of economy amid fears of Venezuela fallout

HAVANA, July 14 (UPI) — Cuba’s minister for the economy, Marino Murillo, was removed from his post Wednesday and reassigned as the island country fears consequences from the economic crisis in Venezuela, its close ally.

The Cuban economy has been partially dependent on Venezuela for years. Former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez guided his Socialist administration’s efforts to improve relations with the Communist island country starting in 1999, when he first took office.

In the past decade, Venezuela has supplied about 100,000 barrels of oil a day to Cuba. Cuba has repaid the gesture by sending Cuban medical teams to Venezuela.

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Low oil prices have intensified Venezuela’s economic crisis, which has led to massive food shortages. Cuba is bracing for what could be a negative impact. A joint Cuban-Venezuelan oil refinery in Cienfuegos has been temporarily closed and the government anticipates it will restrict energy consumption significantly.

Last week, Cuban President Raul Castro warned that citizens would have to improve management of their finances and spend less money. Murillo has been replaced with Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz, a veteran Cuban politician who was previously overseeing the country’s recent debt restructuring.

Murillo will now help lead market reforms in efforts to manage Cuba’s economy. A Cuban government statement said Murillo will focus his efforts on tasks related to “updating the Cuban economic and social model.”

Cuba is hoping to benefit from foreign investment after improved relations with the United States. The countries reopened embassies in their respective capitals last year.

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