World Bulletin / News Desk
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez named Foreign Minister and former bus driver Nicolas Maduro as his new vice president on Wednesday in a Cabinet shake-up following his comfortable re-election.
Maduro, 49, replaces Elias Jaua, who will run for the governorship of Miranda state against defeated presidential candidate Henrique Capriles in the South American OPEC member's December gubernatorial elections.
An ex-union leader on the public bus service and foreign minister since 2006, Maduro has long been seen as a possible successor to Chavez along with several other senior allies.
He was frequently at his side in the most critical moments of Chavez's year of cancer treatment since mid-2011.
The possibility of a recurrence of the disease hangs over Chavez despite a surprisingly vigorous campaign before his convincing 11-point win on Sunday.
Should Chavez's cancer reappear and force him out of office within the first four years of his six-year term, the vice president would serve temporarily as president before a new election. If Chavez left office in the final two years, the vice president would serve out the rest of the term. Chavez, 58, has ruled Venezuela since 1999.
"I don't recommend anyone for the vice president's job," Chavez joked, naming Maduro during the formal proclamation of his presidential win by Venezuela's election board.
"Putting up with me is not easy!"
The affable Maduro's working-class background gives him more appeal than other officials among Chavez's supporters. He was elected in 2000 to parliament, where his combative defense of Chavez's socialism turned him into a favored protégé.
"He was a bus driver. How they mock him, the bourgeoisie," said Chavez, who depicts his socialist government as a protector of the masses against an evil capitalist elite.
In other changes, Interior Minister Tareck el Aissami, Presidential Office Minister Erika Farias and Indigenous Peoples' Minister Nicia Maldonada all left the Cabinet to fight for state governorships, the ruling Socialist Party said.
Replacements were not named.