Cuba’s first cabinet meet under new president tackles tricky economy

Fixing the Soviet-style centralized economy is the most pressing challenge new President Miguel Diaz-Canel faces. (Reuters)
Updated 27 April 2018

Cuba’s first cabinet meet under new president tackles tricky economy

HAVANA: Communist-run Cuba’s first cabinet meeting under new President Miguel Diaz-Canel focused on corruption and a cash crunch hurting the economy, state-run media reported on Thursday.
Diaz-Canel took office from his mentor Raul Castro last week, although the latter remains head of the ruling Communist Party, the island nation’s guiding political force.
Fixing the Soviet-style centralized economy is the most pressing challenge Diaz-Canel faces in view of declining oil shipments from socialist ally Venezuela and renewed tensions with old foe the United States that is hurting tourism.
Deputy Economy Minister Alejandro Gil Fernandez delivered a report on the economy’s performance in the first quarter of 2018 at the monthly cabinet meeting on Wednesday, state-run media reported.
There were still “tensions over the availability of hard currency” because of weak exports, as well as difficulties in fuel supply, media cited him as saying.
Lower imports due to the liquidity crisis have been affecting Cuban factories’ ability to manufacture; production of sanitary towels for example was suspended in recent months, causing indignation among some Cubans.
Supplies had finally arrived however, so the government hoped the situation would be “normalized” by May, state-run media reported.
In the face of low supplies and a lack of building workers among other difficulties, the government estimated Cuba achieved 90 percent of its investment goal in the first quarter.
Sugar production had been impacted by an intense drought followed by sustained rain, as well as Hurricane Irma, it said.
The cabinet meeting also addressed the “economic affectations caused by irregularities in foreign commerce operations and plans to combat illegalities in land use and urban planning,” state-run media reported.
This was the first time in a while that state-run media had given a detailed report on a cabinet meeting.
The meeting reunited the council of ministers of the legislative period that ended last week. Diaz-Canel has postponed announcing his own council of ministers until the next parliamentary session in July.


6 dead after man opens fire in Czech hospital waiting room

Updated 10 December 2019

6 dead after man opens fire in Czech hospital waiting room

  • The attacker opened fire at people’s heads from close range
  • Police published a photo of the suspect, having withdrawn an earlier photo of a different man

PRAGUE: Six people were killed in a shooting in a hospital in the eastern Czech Republic Tuesday, the prime minister said. Police said the suspect is at large and described him as armed and dangerous.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis told Czech public television the shooting took place around 7 a.m. in a waiting room. The attacker opened fire at people’s heads from close range, Babis said.

He said he was heading for the site, at the University hospital in the eastern city of Ostrava, 350 kilometers (220 miles) east of Prague.

Police said the man left in a silver-grey Renault Laguna car and called on the public not to try to stop him.

Police published a photo of the suspect, having withdrawn an earlier photo of a different man. They said that man was now considered to be a witness.

Video footage and pictures published by public radio showed police arresting a person at the site but that person did not appear to be the shooting suspect.

Officials say people have been evacuated from the clinic. Police are boosting security across the country.