Nicolás Maduro has moved pieces of his cabinet to face the road ahead, with several fronts open in the diplomatic field and the need to reinforce the military props that support him. The changes come just days after starting the dialogue with the opposition in Mexico. In a Twitter thread, the Chavista leader has announced the relief, among which Jorge Arreaza stands out in the Foreign Ministry, a position he held since 2017 after being vice president during the first years of the Maduro government, and just when the diplomatic siege began. to Venezuela. His place will now be taken by another internationalist, Félix Plasencia, who was in the Tourism portfolio and since October 2020 had become Venezuela’s ambassador to China, a key country for the support of Chavismo.
Félix Plasencia is part of the circle of trust of the Rodríguez brothers, who are gaining more and more power in the Chavista government. As the new chancellor, he has a long friendship with the current vice president, Delcy Rodríguez, since they met in diplomatic positions in London in the 1990s, long before Chavismo appeared on the scene. They were also together that morning of January 20, 2020 at the Barajas airport with the former Spanish Minister of Transportation José Luis Ábalos. The official made a technical stop in Madrid where she boarded a flight to Doha, a stay that unleashed a long political storm in Spain against the Government, accused by the opposition of having breached the European sanctions against Rodríguez, which prevent him from passing through Community territory.
After years of diplomatic restrictions on Chavismo, Plasencia will be a foreign minister with a double passport and not on the black list of high-ranking officials sanctioned by Washington and Brussels. He has Spanish nationality for being the son of canaries. His first appearance in the Government was next to Jorge Rodríguez, when he was mayor of Caracas between 2012 and 2017. There he served as director of International Relations of the Mayor’s Office of Libertador and president of Fundapatrimonio, an institution in charge of the conservation of buildings. historical of Caracas. Between 2014 and 2018, with her friend as Chancellor, she was climbing positions in Foreign Affairs. He was Director of Protocol at the Foreign Ministry in 2015, Vice Minister for Asia, the Middle East and Oceania in 2016 and in 2018 Vice Minister for Multilateral Issues. Now he will be chancellor. In the most immediate panorama are the negotiations that have begun in Mexico between the Maduro government and the opposition.
Arreaza had to maneuver with the devastating reports on human rights violations in Venezuela presented to the United Nations, the visit to the country by High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet and the investigation by the independent UN mission. This is a diplomatic front that continues to be open for Plasencia. The progress of the process against Venezuela in the International Criminal Court, which has said that there is evidence that crimes against humanity have been committed in the country during the Maduro government, will be another crossroads for the new minister.
With the change in the Chancellery, Arreaza will now go to the Ministry of Industry and National Production that Tareck el Aissami held in a double position, at the same time Minister of Petroleum. In this portfolio he will have to face the country’s economic debacle. The appointment implies a certain displacement of the power group of the Chávez family from the circle closest to Maduro. Arreaza was married to Rosa Virginia Chávez, the daughter of the commander of the revolution, with whom he has a son, and was a political supporter of the former president during his last months of convalescence.
Maduro also announced other changes as a result of the primaries of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, in which some key pieces of Chavismo will aspire to governorships and some defeated will have space in the presidential team. Admiral Remigio Ceballos Ichaso will be the new Minister of Internal Relations and Justice, replacing Admiral Carmen Meléndez, who is running for mayor of the capital. Ceballos Ichaso had left the operational headquarters of the Armed Forces in July, the second in command after Vladimir Padrino, the defense minister who has lasted the longest in office and who has accompanied Maduro since 2014.
Another admiral, William Serrantes, will lead the Ministry of Ecological Mining Development, a sector that has given Maduro air amid the drought of income through the exploitation of the mining arc and the sale of gold through Turkey. With these two appointments, the military presence in his cabinet grows. The uniformed men occupy a third of the portfolios in strategic areas.
After nine years as governor of the Monagas State, Yelitze Santaella, overwhelmingly defeated in the first of the PSUV, was appointed as Minister of Education, although her training is in administration. This portfolio was orphaned after the death in April of Aristóbulo Istúriz, a leader with a long history in the Bolivarian revolution. Another case of incorporation of defeated political leaderships is that of Margaud Godoy, governor of Cojedes, vetoed by the bases to continue for another period. She is now the new Minister of Women and Gender Equality. The results of the primaries in the states in which Godoy and Santaella competed, in addition to six other regions, were reviewed by the PSUV leadership, which finally imposed the candidates.
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