Chavez Swears-In New Cabinet for “Venezuelan Path to Socialism”

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez swore in 15 new and 12 continuing members of his cabinet today. The cabinet shake-up comes as Chavez is about to renew his own oath of office on Wednesday, at the start of his second full term as President of Venezuela.

Caracas, January 8, 2007 (— Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez swore in 15 new and 12 continuing members of his cabinet today. The cabinet shake-up comes as Chavez is about to renew his own oath of office on Wednesday, at the start of his second full term as President of Venezuela. According to Chavez, the new ministers will be in charge of pushing forward his government’s project of implementing “21st century socialism” in Venezuela. Many of the new ministers, seven, come from the National Assembly, and almost all from Chavez’s own MVR party.

Holding the first speech during the ceremony, former Vice-President José Vicente Rangel clarified that although he and other ministers were leaving the government, they “are not leaving the revolution.” Rangel went on to honor his successor in the office of vice-president, with whom he has had a lifelong friendship, particularly through Jorge Rodriguez’s murdered father, who was a leader of the Venezuelan left in the 1970’s.

Rodriguez returned the praise, during his speech, saying that Rangel was the first person he ever voted for, for President, when he turned 18 in 1983. Rodriguez went on to say that the recent presidential election of December 3rd was not an ordinary election, but one that, “obliges us to advance, to resolve the tremendous problems that still exist.” Rodriguez also expressed his support of the decision to not renew the broadcasting concession of the oppositional TV station RCTV, saying that this is a right that any state has in a democracy, implying that since the non-renewal was announced prior to the election, this is what the population wants.

Chavez swore his ministers into office with an unusual oath that had them paraphrase the oath that national independence hero Simon Bolivar swore when he began fighting for Venezuelan independence from Spain, adding to the oath that the goal would not only be Venezuelan independence, but also socialism. According to that oath, they would “never rest arm or soul in the construction of the Venezuelan path towards socialism.”

The new ministers are the following:

Rodrigo Cabezas, who had previously headed up the finance commission of the National Assembly (AN) is the new finance minister, replacing long-time Chavez protégé Nelson Merentes, who will join the board of directors of Venezuela’s Central Bank.

Luis Acuña, an MVR representative from the eastern Venezuelan state of Sucre, is the new Minister for higher Education, replacing history professor Samuel Moncada.

Chavez’s brother, Adán Chavez, is moving from the Ministry of the Presidency to the Ministry of Education, replacing one of Chavez’s longest serving ministers, Aristóbulo Isturiz.

The doctor and MVR deputy in the AN, Erick Rodriguez, is the new Minister of Health, replacing Francisco Armada.

The deputy for the Communist Party, David Velasquez, is the new Minister for Popular Participation, replacing retired General Garcia Carneiro. Velasquez was the main person who wrote the new communal council law, which is now transforming local governance in Venezuela and whose implantation falls under the auspices of the Popular Participation ministry.

Another long-serving minister to leave is Yadira Cordova, who was Minister for Science and Technology. The new minister for this post is Hector Navarro, who used to be Minister for Higher Education, until about a year ago.

The new Minister of Labor is AN deputy José Ramón Rivero, who takes over from Ricardo Dorado.

Yuvirí Ortega, who is the ex-president of Hidrocentro, which is the state company responsible for assuring the potable water supply of three of Venezuela’s states, is the new Minster for the Environment. She is replacing Jacqueline Faría.

Chavez swore in Titina Anzuaje as new Minister for Tourism, replacing Wilmer Castro Soteldo. Anzuaje also comes from the AN and is one of the founders of the pro-Chavez group Clase Medio en Positivo (Middle Class in Positive).

The new Minister of the Office of the Presidency, which functions as the Chief of Staff of the President, is Hugo Cabezas, who for several years headed up the Office of Identification (ONIDEX), which issues identity documents and visas. Chavez’s brother Adán Chavez previously headed this ministry for a little less than a year.

Chavez also created two new ministerial posts, for Telecommunications, to which he appointed the former Minister of the Interior, Jesse Chacón, and a Ministry for Indigenous Affairs, to which he named the long-time indigenous activist Nicia Maldonado.

Last week Chavez had already announced that AN deputy Pedro Carreño would be the new Minister of the Interior and of Justice, replacing Jesse Chacón.

The new Vice-President, who in Venezuela is named by the President, is former Electoral Council President Jorge Rodriguez, replacing José Vicente Rangel.

Confirmed in their ministerial posts were Rafael Ramirez as Minister of Energy and Petroleum and as President of the state oil company PDVSA, Nicolas Maduro as Foreign Minister, Maria Cristina Iglesias as Minister of Light Industry and Commerce, Willian Lara as Minister of Communication and Information, and Jorge Giordani, as Minister of Planning and Development. Also confirmed were the Minister for Land and Agriculture Elias Jaua, the Minister of Defense Raul Baduel, Minister for Alimentation Erika Faría, Minister for Popular Economy Pedro Morejón, Minister for Housing and Habitat Ramón Carrizales , Minister of Culture Francisco Sesto, Minister for Integration and Foreign Commerce Gustavo Márquez, Minister for Infrastructure José Cabello, and Minister of Basic Industry and Mining José Khan.

It is unclear what the parting ministers’ new positions will be, but in the past Chavez has often given them ambassadorial posts.