CARACAS -- President Hugo Chávez on Wednesday named Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro as his new vice president.
Maduro, a former National Assembly member, has headed the foreign ministry since 2006, and is seen as one of the administration’s hard liners. He got his start as a bus driver and union organizer before becoming an early Chávez ally.
On Wednesday, Chávez hailed Maduro’s humble roots and chided the “bourgeoisie” for making fun of them.
The president announced the changes shortly after the National Election Council formally declared him the victor of Sunday’s election, where he won 55 percent of the vote and swept all but two states. Chávez’s new term will run from 2013-2019 and he’s vowed to use the time to deepen his socialist reforms.
On Wednesday, Chávez said he will be rolling out smaller versions of his popular “Grand Missions,” which include subsidized housing and free education. But he didn’t provide any additional details.
Current Vice President Elías Jaua, who has held the post since 2010, will be running for governor of Miranda in December. But that could be a tough battle, as he will be facing Gov. Henrique Capriles, 40, who earned 6.5 million votes in Sunday’s presidential race and has emerged as the face of the opposition.
On Wednesday, Capriles’ campaign announced that he will seek to keep his job at the helm of Miranda, the country’s second-most populous state, which is part of greater Caracas.
Cabinet changes are closely watched in Venezuela, where Chávez announced last year that he was suffering from an undisclosed form of cancer. The illness has forced him to have at least three surgeries and chemotherapy, but the 58-year-old former military officer claims he has beaten the illness.