Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has named his former Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro as his new deputy, following the recent presidential election in which Chavez won a third consecutive six-year term.
Chavez made the announcement on Wednesday while appearing at the National Electoral Commission to get officially declared as the winner of Sunday's vote. Incidentally, 49-year-old Maduro has served as Venezuela's Foreign Minister since 2006.
Maduro, a former bus driver who gradually rose through the ranks of the ruling United Socialist Party, has been one of Chavez's closest advisers. His appointment as Vice-President implies that Maduro would succeed Chavez if the latter stepped down because of his battle with cancer.
Chavez wants his former Vice-President Elias Jaua to challenge Henrique Capriles, who was his lone rival in Sunday's presidential elections, in the upcoming elections in December to choose the Governor of the populous Miranda state.
Chavez had defeated Capriles, a former Miranda Governor, in Sunday's tightly-contested presidential elections, which saw an 80 percent voter turnout. A coalition of 30 Opposition parties had chosen Capriles as their candidate for the elections in the Latin American nation's first-ever Opposition primary held in February.
The Opposition primary had brightened chances of upsetting Chavez at the polls by selecting a single candidate endorsed by all Opposition parties. Nevertheless, the incumbent was considered to be the favorite. Chavez had said earlier that he would accept the poll outcome even if he were to be defeated.
Chavez, 58, who was diagnosed with cancer last year, had actively campaigned for his third consecutive term in office, stressing that he needed six more years in office to consolidate his socialist policies. Notably, he has already nationalized several key sectors of the oil-rich nation's economy.
Chavez has been shuttling between Venezuela and Cuba ever since he underwent an initial surgery in the Cuban capital on June 20, 2011 to remove a cancerous tumor in his pelvic area and spent nearly a month there recuperating. He has since undergone four rounds of chemotherapy, three of which were in Cuba.
Further, Chavez underwent a surgery at Havana's Cimeq Hospital in February to remove a lesion found in the same place where the tumor was extracted almost a year ago. Although he indicated earlier that the new growth might be malignant, he now claims to be in good heath and fit to be in office for a third term.
The maverick socialist has been ruling Venezuela since 1998 by winning repeated elections. He has considerable support in his home country, mainly due to the massive government spending on social programs targeting the poor. Notably, the Opposition parties had made major inroads into the ruling party's strongholds in last year's parliamentary elections, denying it a crucial two-thirds majority in the National Assembly.
by RTT Staff Writer
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