Spain's Finance Minister Quits Amid Major Cabinet Reshuffle

From Times Wire Services

Spain's influential economics minister has abruptly resigned amid a Cabinet shuffle intended to give the Socialist government a fresh image in preparation for next year's elections, Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez said Thursday.

The shake-up, the first since the Socialists assumed office 31 months ago, also brought the replacement of the foreign minister, along with the ministers of public works, transportation, industry and territorial administration.

Gonzalez said that Economics and Finance Minister Miguel Boyer submitted his resignation Wednesday, upsetting what was to have been a careful revamping of the government.

Boyer, one of Spain's most powerful men, was the prime mover of a conservative economic policy that had lowered the rate of inflation and reduced government spending, but led to Europe's highest unemployment rate at about 20%. Gonzalez stressed, however, that there will be no change in policy direction. "The economic policy of austerity is going to be maintained through the next elections," he said.

Boyer was replaced by Carlos Solchaga, 41, who as industry minister was responsible for closing steel and shipbuilding industries deemed obsolete and uncompetitive in the European market.

Another key minister replaced was Foreign Minister Fernando Moran, who negotiated Spain's entry into the European Economic Community but clashed with Gonzalez by opposing continued membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Moran, 59, was replaced by Francisco Fernandez Ordonez, 55, a pro-NATO Social Democrat, as Gonzalez campaigns for referendum support for Spanish membership in the alliance.

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