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Cuba s central bank chief steps down

HAVANA, Jun 5 – Cuba\’s central bank chief Francisco Soberon stepped down Thursday, as the cash-strapped communist country struggles to cope with the international economic downturn, state media said.

Soberon, 65, who has headed the bank for 15 years, asked President Raul Castro to replace him so that he could do research and write about international finance, a statement read on state television said.

The report said Soberon\’s work was done "loyally and honestly, like that of most of the ministers reshuffled in March."

That was an allusion to the shock reshuffle that led to the removal of then-Vice President Carlos Lage and foreign minister Felipe Perez Roque, leading regime figures long seen as possible successors to Raul Castro, 75, who were accused of "ambition" and questionable conduct.

Cuba has lowered its projected growth to two percent for 2009, a downward revision of an earlier six percent forecast.

Agriculture has been struggling, and tourism, a key source of hard currency for the central economy, declined in the first four months of the year, the normal high season.

Meanwhile, prices of key export nickel have remained low.

Soberon was to be replaced by banker Ernesto Medina, the television report said.

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