CARACAS, Thursday January 04, 2007 | Update
Venezuelan ruler Hugo Chávez late Wednesday designated Jorge Rodríguez, former president of the National Electoral Council (CNE), as the Venezuelan Executive Vice-President to replace José Vicente Rangel.
"The decision to replace José Vicente Rangel has not been easy for me. He is a great pitcher and I feel a great affection for him. I respect him as if he were my father," Chávez told TV show Contragolpe, hosted by journalist Vanessa Davies on the official TV channel VTV.
Chávez, who declined disclosing other changes in his cabinet, also said that parliamentarian Pedro Carreño is to replace Jesse Chacón at the Ministry of the Interior and Justice.
Chávez hailed Rodríguez, a psychiatrist, as "an eminent human being, gifted with a great intelligence and commitment to the truth." The Venezuelan ruler said the former CNE president will help his government achieve goals in this new term and fight against bureaucracy, corruption and inefficiency.
"I am looking forward to swearing in Jorge (Rodríguez) by January 10, when I will be sworn in for my new term in office," Chávez explained.
Rodríguez (41) graduated from the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) as a physician and then specialized in psychiatry at the same university. He then took post-graduate studies in community clinical psychology at the Andrés Bello Catholic University.
As a student at UCV, he was the president of the Federation of University Centers (1988) and was an outstanding author of short stories. His father, Jorge Rodríguez, was a leader of the Socialist League. He died from tortures while in custody of the political police corps Disip in the 1970's.
Rodríguez appeared in the Venezuelan political scenario in 2003, when he was elected as a director of CNE. He later became the president of the top electoral body in Venezuela. He kept a low profile following his term as head of CNE.
Carreño replaces Chacón
Chávez also announced he is replacing Jesse Chacón with Pedro Carreño as Minister of the Interior and Justice.
While he declined to comment on the reasons for this move, he did comment on the problems of personal insecurity and recent riots in Venezuelan prisons. Chávez claimed that steps to solve the problems facing the penitentiary system are too slowly.
Carreño graduated from the Venezuelan Military Academy in 1985 as lieutenant and was dismissed as a captain in February 1994 after he was involved in military rebellion. He has completed studies in publicity and advertising, foreign trade and a master's degree in History of Venezuela at the Andrés Bello Catholic University.
At the National Assembly, Carreño has chaired the Comptrollership Committee, the Committee for Postulations to the Judiciary, and second vice-president of Parliament.
Since the electoral campaign in 1998, Carreño has been one of Chávez' right hand men and one of his direct aides.
Regarding his plans to merge all of the political parties supporting him into the so-called Socialist United Party of Venezuela, Chávez said: "We have been thinking and working a lot these days on this issue, but I do not want to rush into any announcement."
Translated by Maryflor Suárez R.