Cuban President Diaz-Canel replaces foreign commerce minister in further shake-up

FILE PHOTO: Vice President of Cuba's Council of Ministers Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz waits for the arrival of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon for a meeting in Havana, Cuba

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel on Thursday replaced his minister of foreign commerce, Ricardo Cabrisas, a key cabinet member who has long spearheaded thorny debt negotiations with trade partners China, Russia and the Paris Club of creditor nations.

Cabrisas, 87, will carry on his role as deputy prime minister, according to a brief statement broadcast on the mid-day state-run newscast.

The move appears to be part of a broader and unusual high level shake-up at a time when Cuba's communist-run government is facing a near unprecedented social and economic crisis, including severe shortages of food, fuel, electricity and medicine.

The statement did not explain why Diaz-Canel had chosen to replace Cabrisas.

Diaz-Canel earlier this year sacked his economy minister, Alejandro Gil, on allegations of corruption. The embattled Cuban president has also replaced his Food Industry and Science, Technology and Environment ministers, as well as several high-level provincial party leaders since February.

Cabrisas, a confidant of both Diaz-Canel and former Cuban leader Raul Castro, has for decades managed negotiations over foreign debt with Cuba's trade partners at a time when the island nation - always strapped for cash - has become increasingly desperate.

Cabrisas will be replaced by Oscar Perez, a 53-year-old engineer, who is currently first deputy minister of the foreign commerce ministry.

(Reporting by Nelson Acosta, editing by Dave Sherwood and Bill Berkrot)