CARACAS (Reuters) - A leftist Spanish academic hailed as the "Jesus Christ of economics" by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said this week's announcement of his appointment to help the South American nation's government manage shortages was a mistake.

Venezuela had said Alfredo Serrano, who has close links to Spain's anti-austerity party Podemos, was joining a new body of civilians and military officers tapped by Maduro to fix food distribution problems amid a deep economic crisis.

"There was a mistake which has been corrected," Serrano said in an email to Reuters late Tuesday, referring to his naming in the official gazette. "I was never the person who formed part of that body in the Grand Mission of Sovereign Supply."

A reprint of the gazette circulating on Tuesday was corrected to show a local military general, Pedro Jesus Serrano, on the new group instead of the Spaniard.

Alfredo Serrano, whose beard and long hair lend him the apostle-like appearance that Maduro alluded to earlier in the year, has been widely reported in Venezuelan media to have served as an unofficial adviser to the socialist government.

Neither Serrano nor officials have confirmed that, though he has been frequently seen close to Maduro during official events.

Venezuela is reeling from triple-digit inflation, deep shortages, long shopping lines, and a third year of recession.

The government blames an "economic war" led by adversaries with the support of Washington, while critics point to 17 years of state-led economic policies including price and currency controls.

(Reporting by Corina Pons; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)