Cuba replaces transportation, sugar ministers

HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba’s government on Monday ousted its transportation minister and sugar minister, faulting their job performance, as President Raul Castro shook up his cabinet.

An official note read on Cuban television news said Minister of Transport Jorge Luis Sierra Cruz, who also served as a vice president on Cuba’s council of ministers, was dismissed “for errors committed in the performance of his functions.”

His departure followed the recent dismissal of Rogelio Acevedo, who was head of civil aviation in Cuba and, according to news reports and blogs, linked to a scandal involving profiteering from the misuse of Cubana Airlines jets.

The official note also stated that Luis Manuel Avila Gonzalez, Cuba’s minister of sugar, “asked for his release upon recognizing the deficiencies of his work.”

Avila has presided over the ministry during what is expected to be one of Cuba’s worst sugar harvests in a century. The communist-led island’s once-dominant sugar industry has been declining for years due in part to lack of investment.

Antonio Enrique Lusson Batlle, a commander in the rebel army led by Fidel Castro in Cuba’s 1959 revolution and currently a member of the ruling Communist Party’s central committee, will replace Sierra as a vice president of the council of ministers, the official note said.

The council essentially functions as Castro’s cabinet.

Cesar Ignacio Arocha Masid, a military man with experience in transportation and logistics, was named transportation minister.

Vice Minister of Sugar Celso Garcia Ramirez will take over as sugar minister, the note said.

Cuba’s fall from once being the world’s biggest sugar exporter began with the collapse of former benefactor the Soviet Union in 1991. Since then, the sector has declined relentlessly.

The United States, before the 1959 Revolution, and later the Soviet Union, paid padded prices for Cuban sugar to boost the island’s economy, so the subsequent collapse of the Soviet bloc hit Cuba and its sugar industry hard.

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