UPDATE 1-Venezuela reshuffles cabinet, backs away from economic shake-up

miércoles 3 de septiembre de 2014 16:31 GYT

(Adds opposition statement, paragraph 7)

By Alexandra Ulmer

CARACAS, Sept 3 (Reuters) - President Nicolas Maduro has reshuffled his cabinet in a bid to boost his popularity but shows no sign of revamping Venezuela's troubled economy, meaning prospects of gasoline price hikes and a unification of Byzantine currency controls have dimmed.

Caught between trying to preserve predecessor Hugo Chavez's socialist legacy and fixing the economy, Maduro on Tuesday night pushed Rafael Ramirez from his twin posts as oil minister and boss of state oil company PDVSA, ending the official's decade-long grip on the country's energy industry.

Ramirez, also moved from a third post of vice-president for the economy, had been advocating reforms such as one official foreign currency rate instead of the current three and an increase in the price of the world's cheapest gasoline. He was named foreign minister.

Maduro promoted PDVSA's exploration and production chief, Eulogio Del Pino, to the company's top job and tapped Asdrubal Chavez, cousin of late leader Chavez, to lead the oil ministry.

After weeks of government officials talking of a major "shakeup," critics and some economists said the shuffle shows that Maduro, whose popularity has been slipping, is not willing to shoulder the political cost of undoing the Chavez-era model.

Though popular social welfare projects from Chavez's 14-year rule are still in place, the economy is teetering on recession and annual inflation has risen to over 60 percent. A lack of U.S. dollars due to strict currency controls has led to shortages of basic goods ranging from powdered milk to soap.

"The rotation of ministers without a change in the economic and social model is surely going to worsen the signs of the crisis," the opposition Democratic Unity coalition said. "The statist, inefficient model is the main cause of the penuries Venezuelans are suffering today."   Continuación...