Guayaquil, Ecuador, August 19, 2021 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced cabinet changes after a number of ministers were chosen as candidates for the November 21 “mega-elections.”
The most notorious shakeup was the appointment of Felix Plasencia, the nation's ambassador to China since October 2020, as the new foreign affairs minister. The diplomat will replace Jorge Arreaza, who has held the post since August 2017 and is a popular figure with grassroots and international solidarity movements.
"I appointed Félix Plasencia as the new foreign minister. He has the immense responsibility of continuing the excellent diplomatic work carried out by Jorge Arreaza", wrote Maduro in a Twitter announcement on Thursday.
Plasencia said he would take the new responsibility "with great commitment and pride." The outgoing ambassador also served as vice-minister for Asia, the Middle East and Oceania in 2016, vice-minister for multilateral affairs (2018-2019) and minister for tourism and foreign trade (2019-2020). He was part of the government delegation for the 2019 failed dialogue process with the opposition that took place in Barbados and Oslo.
For his part, Arreaza will assume the Ministry of Industries and National Production with the task of ramping up the nation’s production scheme. "With his work capacity, intelligence and commitment, we will advance with greater force in the revitalization of the country's productive forces," Maduro explained.
The former vice president (2013-2016) said that he will now face a bigger challenge heading the country's production recovery amidst "the [US] blockade and all the difficulties." Arreaza's new responsibility comes after a recent announcement that import taxes will be levied on 597 products in order to boost national production.
Arreaza has held several high-ranking posts in Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro's governments and said he felt "honored to have served his people in these difficult years of complex [foreign] aggression" against Venezuela.
"We overcame every imperialist attack with deep patriotism," the diplomat wrote on Twitter, wishing Plasencia success in his new role. Arreaza received the newly appointed Foreign Minister to coordinate the office transfer.
In his four years on the post, the outgoing foreign minister has dealt with ramped up regime-change efforts as Washington imposed financial sanctions, an oil embargo, secondary sanctions, as well as a host of other measures meant to cripple Caracas’ economy.
Likewise, during Arreaza's tenure, the country endured an aggressive regional attack led by the now beleaguered right-wing US-backed Lima Group.
Arreaza drew praise from officials and grassroots movements on social media. The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA-TCP) secretary Sacha Llorenti hailed his "extraordinary job" as foreign minister and wished him success in his new position. "He is a true citizen of the Patria Grande (Great Homeland)," tweeted the Bolivian diplomat.
The cabinet reshuffle follows the August 8 United Socialist Party of Venezuela’s (PSUV) internal primaries where high-ranking officials were elected candidates for the November 21 regional and local contests. Carmen Meléndez and Eduardo Piñate leave their ministry posts to race for the Caracas mayoralty and Apure governorship, respectively. Maduro called them to "consolidate a great victory" in the upcoming mega-elections.
In that order, President Maduro appointed Admiral Remigio Ceballos as the new interior, justice and peace minister in replacement of Meléndez, while Yelitze Santaella will be in charge of the education portfolio, taking Piñate's place. Santaella lost her primary contest in Monagas state.
Additionally, Minister of Sports Mervin Maldonado was appointed vice president of Social and Territorial Socialism, a position previously covered by Piñate.
Other changes include Margaud Godoy taking Carolys Pérez's place in the Ministry for Women and Gender Equality. Likewise, William Serantes Pinto will be in charge of the ecological mining development office previously held by Magaly Henríquez.
Venezuela's previous cabinet shakeups happened in April and September 2020, the latter ahead of the December parliamentary elections. However, in Maduro's first years in office, complete cabinet overhauls were frequent occurrences, usually responding to the country's turmoil in the political and economic scenes.
The new ministry changes take place as a new dialogue process with the hardline opposition unfolds in Mexico. On August 11, the two parties signed a seven-point memorandum that includes sanctions relief and electoral guarantees.
[UPDATE] On August 20, President Maduro appointed Roside Virginia González as the new minister for indigenous peoples, replacing Yamilet Mirabal, who was chosen as the PSUV candidate for the Ature municipality mayorship (Amazonas state). All the new ministers were sworn in on Friday.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz from Mérida.