Cuba announces increase in wages

HAVANA — The Cuban government said Thursday that it is raising state salaries as part of a broader package of economic reforms, but it revealed no details of its larger plan beyond increasing worker compensation.

A salary increase has long been seen as one of the first steps in the unification of Cuba’s unique dual-currency system, a process that could be a risky gambit in the face of an economic crisis exacerbated by tightened U.S. sanctions.

For the last quarter-century, Cubans have used one peso worth about four cents and another worth nearly a dollar. The stronger peso was introduced as a replacement for the dollars traded on the black market during the island’s post-Soviet economic crisis in the 1990s. Over time, the two currencies have come to be used by the communist government to set extremely low prices for goods and services considered basic rights and extremely high prices for others considered luxuries, creating distortions that cripple economic growth.

Cuban officials said Díaz-Canel presided over an important meeting of the country’s governing Council of Ministers on June 21, although they did not specify the agenda of the meeting. The collapse of Venezuela’s economy has led to a cut in aid to Cuba, and sharp slowdown worsened by a series of Trump administration measures designed to cut off funding to the island’s government.

New corruption allegations hit Puerto Rico’s government

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A top Puerto Rico official said Tuesday that he appeared before a federal grand jury investigating a former government adviser in the latest corruption allegation to hit the U.S. territory this week.

Chief of Staff Ricardo Llerandi said he answered questions and submitted documents related to Alberto Velázquez, who was a consultant for a company that oversaw the island’s Health Insurance Administration. Llerandi said that the documents aren’t related to his current position and he isn’t being investigated.

Hours later, he announced that he accepted the resignation of Ángela Ávila, executive director of the insurance administration. No other details were provided.

The announcement comes a day after Gov. Ricardo Rosselló asked Puerto Rico’s Treasury Secretary Raúl Maldonado to resign following comments he made to local radio station WKAQ. Maldonado said there was an “institutional mafia” in the agency he oversaw and that people tried to bribe him several times. Maldonado was also Puerto Rico’s chief financial officer and director of the Office of Budget and Management.

Rosselló said he wasn’t firing Maldonado because of his comments, but because he lost confidence in him, adding the allegations were serious and he has ordered an investigation.

“Maldonado must present all evidence he has to justice officials,” Rosselló said.

Maldonado took over the Treasury Department in January, when former Secretary Teresita Fuentes resigned after saying there were irregularities within the agency.

Meanwhile, Maldonado’s son took to social media this week to accuse Rosselló of corruption and of altering an audit ordered by his father. The audit looked into a foundation with ties to Rosselló’s wife and ultimately found no wrongdoing involving alleged mishandling of supplies meant for Hurricane Maria survivors.

Rosselló issued a statement on Tuesday rejecting accusations and noting that his wife was only a spokeswoman for the foundation and did not have an administrative role.

“Any insinuation about this is absurd, lacks coherence and is unforgivable slander,” Rosselló said.

Puerto Rico Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez ordered Maldonado to meet with prosecutors on Friday and present evidence to back up his claims of alleged bribery. She said his son was ordered to appear next week.

The FBI said Tuesday that it could not confirm or deny potential or ongoing investigations.

Last month, the FBI arrested the executive director of Puerto Rico’s Senate Office of Government Affairs and two legislative advisers. They are accused of creating an alleged billing scheme for professional services never rendered.

The upheaval comes as Puerto Rico prepares to submit its budget for the upcoming fiscal year as it fights austerity measures sought by a federal control board overseeing the island’s finances and the restructuring of some of its more than $70 billion public debt load amid a 13-year recession.

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