HAVANA, (Reuters) – Cuban Economy Minister Marino Murillo has emerged as the point man for the Caribbean island’s economic reforms after President Raul Castro let him make the public case for modernizing one of the world’s last Soviet-style socialist systems.
The 49-year-old economist and Communist Party loyalist had previously stayed mostly in the background.
But in an unusual National Assembly meeting in Havana last week, he held forth for three days in nationally televised sessions, explaining the planned reform drive in blunt terms that impressed many viewers. “The guy is in the spotlight and carries himself with confidence, which means Raul has given him a green light,” said bank employee Dario Rodriguez, 39.
In long, detailed answers to the assembly, Murillo tossed out information about how the Cuban economy was performing, complained mightily about the things that were holding it back and explained why reforms were needed.
“We have to have a lot of discipline because if not, we cannot put this economy in order. These are moments of a lot of indiscipline,” Murillo said.
“What we are doing here is designing,” he added.
Discussing a new tax system to accompany the reforms, he gave an exhaustive explanation and said: “This seems complicated but is not. He who has to pay will learn it immediately.”
The economist appointed to Castro’s cabinet in a major shakeup last year is the architect of Cuba’s boldest reform in decades, which includes slashing one million state jobs and expanding the communist-ruled island’s private sector.