CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez swore in his new vice president and six other Cabinet ministers on Saturday, less than a week after winning a new mandate to extend his self-styled Bolivarian revolution.
Former Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro replaced Elias Jaua as Chavez's vice president. The 49-year-old Maduro, a burly former bus driver, is considered the member of Chavez's government with the closest ties to Cuba's Fidel and Raul Castro, dating back to his youth when he traveled to the island to strengthen his political education.
The vice presidential job has assumed new importance because of Chavez's recent struggle with cancer and rumors have circulated that Maduro is being groomed as his successor.
Jaua will be the ruling party's candidate for the governorship of Miranda, Venezuela's second largest state, which is the power base of Henrique Capriles, the rival Chavez beat in Oct. 7 elections.
Among the Cabinet changes was the appointment of Gen. Nestor Reverol as the new minister of the interior and justice, replacing Tareck El Aissami, who will run to be governor of Aragua. Reverol had led Venezuela's anti-drug body.
Adm. Carmen Melendez is the new head of the Office of the Presidency, replacing Erika Farias, who will seek the governorship of the west-central state of Cojedes.
New ministers of information and communication, agriculture, the environment and indigenous peoples were also sworn in.
In the swearing-in ceremony aired on state television, Chavez called on his new ministers to continue "the fight to transform the old capitalist and bourgeoisie state ... into a socialist state."
He also called for greater government efficiency.
Chavez won 55 percent of the vote in the election, beating Capriles by 11 percentage points. Chavez has been in power for almost 14 years and his new term is for six more years.