Venezuela: Chavez Announces Major Cabinet Reshuffle

Source: Venezuela Analysis

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced a "profound restructuring" of his government, including the appointment of a new Vice-President and changes in up to 13 out of 27 ministries in a surprise telephone call to current affairs program Dando y Dando on Thursday night.

Chavez presented the changes in the framework of a new phase of the Bolivarian revolution which he has denominated the three R’s; ‘revise, rectify and reimpulse [sic],’ with an emphasis on the formation of the new United Socialist Party of the Venezuela (PSUV), first proposed over a year ago in December 2006.

The government will also focus more on "the concrete problems of the people," such as the construction of housing, rubbish collection, inflation, crime and food shortages Chavez said, "less theory, more praxis."

The change in tack comes after the rejection of a series proposed of constitutional reforms in the referendum on December 2, signifying Chavez’s first electoral defeat since he was elected in 1998.

Ramón Carrizales, the Minister for Housing, will become the new Vice-president of the Republic, Chavez confirmed, while outgoing Vice-president Jorge Rodriguez, who was the co-ordinator of the campaign for the failed constitutional reform, will be charged with general co-ordination of the PSUV.

"I have met with Jorge Rodriguez and spoken about the PSUV, the government and many other issues… Rodriguez will be dedicated exclusively to the task of the party and the political battle," Chavez said.

Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technology, Jesse Chacón, was appointed as the new Secretary of the Presidency, taking over from Erika Farias, and Socorro Hernández, president of the recently nationalised telecommunications company CANTV, has replaced Chacón.

Another important change in the cabinet is the replacement of Communication and Information Minister, William Lara, by Andrés Izarra, currently the president of Telesur and who previously held the Communications and Information portfolio in 2005.

In light of the fierce opposition media campaign against the constitutional reforms in the lead up to the referendum last year Chavez also said it was necessary to examine the government’s communication strategy. In particular, the role of state owned VTV and of Tves, (which assumed the public broadcast license of private TV channel RCTV after it expired in May last year), which "hardly anyone watches," should be assessed, Chavez said.

Izarra said today that Chavez’s three R’s; ‘revise, rectify and reimpulse,’ should be applied to the Communications and Information portfolio and proposed a plan of establishing a national nework of community and alternative media to boost the "communication capacity" of the revolution and combat the "savage" opposition media campaign.

Erika Farias will take over the portfolio of Popular Participation and Social Development from former Communist Party member David Velásquez and Jorge Pérez Prado, who was vice-Minister for Housing will replace Carrizales as the new Minister for Housing.

In his new role as Secretary of the Presidency, Chacón also announced a series of further changes today including, the appointment of Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, co-ordinator of the suspended humanitarian mission ‘Operation Emmanuel,’ as the new Minister of Justice in place of Pedro Carreño; Haiman El Troudi as Minister of Planning; Rafael Isea to assume the portfolio of Finances, and Rodolfo Sanz as new Minister of Mining and Basic Industry.

Félix Osorio Guzmán, president of Mission Mercal, a program which provides government subsidized food, will become the new Minister of Food and Victoria Mata was designated as Minister of Sport.

It is expected that Chavez will make further adjustments in the next few days.

Chavez also called for an alliance of "patriotic forces" in the next round of elections for governors and mayors set for October this year, which would involve the PSUV, Homeland for All (PPT) and the Communist Party of Venezuela and announced that the founding congress of the PSUV would commence on the 12th of January. The congress is expected to last one month and will decide the political program, structure and stautes od the new party.