Venezuela’s Maduro Replaces VP and Top Ministers in Cabinet Shuffle
Lucas Koerner (VA) : Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced the appointment of a new vice-president Wednesday in addition to changes to top-level cabinet posts as his government enters the new year.
The head of state named Aragua state Governor Tarek El Aissami to the post of executive vice-president for the year of 2017-2018. The 42-year-old former interior minister will assume the presidency in the event of a successful recall referendum against Maduro after January 10, which is the cutoff for holding new presidential elections.
Maduro highlighted that the priority of the new vice-president would be fighting violent crime and right-wing extremism, pointing to his prior credentials in public security work.
“I have asked that [El Aissami] concentrate on two areas…citizen security [and] the fight against the terrorists of the far right,” he declared.
In a bid to resolve his country’s acute economic difficulties, Maduro fused the previously separate ministries of productive economy, banking and finance, and industry and commerce into the newly created Ministry of Economy and Finances, which will be headed by the young economist Ramón Lobos.
Currently a National Assembly deputy for the ruling socialist party, the 49-year-old Lobos served as mayor of the Andres Municipality in Merida state from 2000-2008 in addition to serving in a variety of other public posts.
“Lobos is one of the greatest experts we have in the area of finances and budgeting, and for that reason I am giving him the responsibility of taking over the helm of the national economy with a firm hand,” the head of state affirmed.
In addition to heading the new ministry, Lobos will assume the top economic post as vice-president for economy.
In another move, Maduro designated sitting vice-president Aristobulo Isturiz as the new minister of communes and social movements, emphasizing his extensive role in drafting legislation in that area.
“If someone knows [the Ministry of Communes] and has propelled it forward it’s Aristobulo Isturiz. He is an author of the articles of the ministry and of all of the laws of communes,” he stated.
Isturiz will also head the Vice-Presidency for the Development of Territorial Socialism.
Maduro tapped Admiral Carmen Melendez as vice-president of political sovereignty, security, and peace. Melendez has previously served as defense minister and admiral-in-chief of the Bolivarian Navy, breaking ground as the first woman to occupy those top posts.
The president also appointed socialist legislator Elias Jaua to the posts of education minister and vice-president of social development. Jaua is a veteran of many previous Bolivarian governments, having served as vice-president under late President Hugo Chávez.
US-educated engineer and chemist Nelson Martinez will take over for Eulogio del Pino as the new oil minister, with Del Pino continuing on as president of state oil company PDVSA.
Maduro designated Air Force Coronel Ramon Celestino Velasquez as minister of eco-socialism and water. Velasquez is reportedly an expert in environmental management, physical geography, and meteorology.
Current Communes Minister Erika Farias will move on to the post of urban agriculture minister, a portfolio created last year to improve food security in cities.
The head of state tapped Antonieta Caporale Zamora as the government’s new health minister. Zamora is an obstetrical gynecologist who is the current head of the Clinical University Hospital in Caracas.
Barinas state Governor Adan Chavez will assume the post of culture minister, while socialist party deputy Francisco Torrealba will head the Ministry of Social Labor Process.
Maduro further announced that the Ministry of Public Works will be split from the Ministry of Ground Transport with the former now headed by Admiral Cesar Salazar Coll. The president also indicated that legislator Hugbel Roa will serve as the new minister of science, technology, and university education.
The president additionally ratified all other sitting ministers in their posts including Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez, Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas, Food Minister Rodolfo Marco Torres, Foreign Commerce Minister Jesus Farias, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, Planning Minister Ricardo Menendez, Women and Gender Equality Minister Blanca Eekhout, Interior Minister Nestor Reverol, Penitentiary Services Minister Iris Varela, among others.
Lucas Koerner, Venezuelanalysis