January 21, 2017 / 3:34 AM / 2 years ago

Venezuela's Maduro has asked central bank head to step down - sources

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro talks to the media during a news conference at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela January 18, 2017. REUTERS/Marco Bello/Files

, MEXICO CITY/ CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Friday asked central bank head Nelson Merentes to step down, two sources close to the matter told Reuters.

“The request for him to step down was made this afternoon,” said one of the sources linked to the government.

It was not immediately clear why Merentes, a mathematician by training who has led the bank since 2009 except during a stint as Finance Minister in 2013, was asked to leave or who might replace him. Venezuela’s central bank and Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request forcomment.

Oil-rich Venezuela is in the throes of a brutal economic crisis. Consumer prices rose 800 percent in 2016 while the economy contracted by 18.6 percent, Reuters reported earlier on Friday, citing previously undisclosed central bank figures.

As Venezuela’s economy has tanked, the central bank has stopped releasing quarterly and monthly economic indicators.

Long seen as a pragmatic figure, Merentes, who completed a PhD. in mathematics in Budapest in 1991 before returning to Venezuela as a university professor, has disappointed economists by not pushing through major reforms in the Socialist-led OPEC country.

Analysts say Venezuela’s floundering economy will not return to growth until it lifts corruption-riddled exchange controls and dysfunctional price control system, and rolls back hundreds of nationalizations that have left many industries unproductive.

Additional reporting by Corina Pons; Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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