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15/04/2013 | Factbox: Key figures around new Venezuelan leader Maduro

Reuters Staff

Nicolas Maduro, a former bus driver who became Hugo Chavez's political disciple, was declared the winner of Venezuela's presidential election on Sunday in a tight vote that was contested by the opposition.

 

The 50-year-old Maduro was also a union leader before joining Chavez's government, eventually rising to become his foreign minister and then vice-president. Chavez named him as his preferred successor before dying from cancer last month.

Here are some of the important figures surrounding the new leader of the South American OPEC nation:

CILIA FLORES

Maduro's long-term partner, Flores is a tough lawyer who helped win Chavez's release from prison after he led a failed coup two decades ago. As a former attorney general and leader of the National Assembly, she was never far from the circle of power around the late socialist leader.

Described as the most powerful woman in Venezuelan politics, she often accompanied Maduro on the campaign trail, leaving behind the elegant outfits she favored as a senior official to dress down in jeans and casual wear at chaotic rallies.

A law graduate from the private Santa Maria university in Caracas, in 2006 she became the first woman elected as president of the National Assembly - taking over the position from Maduro.

She was seen as a strict enforcer of discipline in Chavez's ruling Socialist Party, and in 2012 he picked her as his attorney general. In the last weeks of the president's life, she staunchly supported the government at vital moments, defending it against opposition claims that there was a power vacuum as he battled cancer.

RAFAEL RAMIREZ

Energy minister since 2002 and president of the OPEC nation's state oil company PDVSA since 2004, Ramirez has been one of the government's longest-serving senior officials, and was seen as one of the closest to Chavez.

His wide responsibilities include running his ministry as well as one of the world's biggest oil companies, particularly as PDVSA took on more and more social programs during Chavez's rule, from providing food to building apartments.

Ramirez was previously a student of Adan Chavez, the late president's older brother, at the University of the Andes where he qualified as an engineering graduate.

A passionate and diehard supporter of "Chavismo" socialism, Ramirez has created controversy and infuriated the opposition by declaring Venezuela's oil industry "roja, rojita" (red from top to bottom).

DIOSDADO CABELLO

Cabello, a former soldier who joined Chavez's attempted coup against President Carlos Andres Perez in 1992, wielded considerable power in business, military and government circles during the socialist leader's years in power.

Often seen as a possible contender for the presidency one day, his loyalty to Chavez was rewarded with numerous senior roles. He currently holds the powerful and delicate position of president of the National Assembly.

Seeking to squelch opposition whispers of a rift between himself and Maduro, Cabello has stressed their unity over and over again on the campaign trail, often putting an arm around Maduro while describing them both as "sons" of Chavez.

As vice president in 2002, Cabello became one of the world's shortest-serving heads of state when he assumed the top job during a two-day coup against Chavez. His first order then was to send elite troops to rescue Chavez, who was being held prisoner by renegade forces at a base on a Caribbean island.

He governed Venezuela's second most populous state, Miranda, from 2004 until 2008, when opposition leader Henrique Capriles defeated him.

Opposition critics question Cabello's business interests and portray him as the quintessential "boli-bourgeois," a term used derisively for those who made good during Chavez's "Bolivarian" revolution, named after independence hero Simon Bolivar.

Despite his repeated vows of unity, many Venezuelans believe Cabello may eventually challenge Maduro for power.

ELIAS JAUA

Jaua, Venezuela's foreign minister, was a prominent face of the government during Chavez's long absences for cancer treatment last year, calling for unity in the Socialist Party and assuring the world that the president remained in charge.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he rose to prominence among university activists, frequenting rock-throwing university protests linked to a leftist party called Red Flag.

Considered ambitious and precociously smart, he was nominated to be Venezuela's ambassador to Argentina in 2002. But Buenos Aires rejected his appointment on concerns that he maintained ties with radical leftist groups.

Chavez tapped Jaua in 2006 as agriculture minister to lead a land reform crusade applauded by the rural poor but harshly criticized by business leaders as weakening property rights. He was promoted to vice president in early 2010 - then was replaced by Chavez's son-in-law Jorge Arreaza after Chavez's death.

Born in 1969, Jaua is a sociologist and former university professor who helped found the Socialist Party that swept Chavez to power, and he was one of the authors of a new constitution in 2000.

JORGE ARREAZA

Married to Chavez's daughter Rosa Virginia, Arreaza has retained his role as Venezuela's minister of science and technology after he was also appointed as vice president by Maduro in a ceremony hours after Chavez's state funeral.

During the last stages of Chavez's illness, Arreaza was often at his bedside. His profile rose as he gave updates on his father-in-law's condition and he turned into something of a spokesman for the family.

Born in 1973, Arreaza studied at the Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV) in Caracas before working as a university teacher, journalist and local television presenter.

JORGE GIORDANI

A Marxist academic, Giordani was nicknamed 'the Monk' as a university professor and was known for his hard left-wing views on the economy before joining Chavez's government in 1999. He served on and off as planning minister, a senior position in the economic cabinet, before being named finance minister in 2008.

He is among the architects of Venezuela's complicated system of price and currency controls, which he says helps combat speculation and capital flight. He is seen by many as being a counterweight to the central bank's less ideologically driven solutions to perennial problems such as high inflation.

Giordani who was born in the Dominican Republic. He studied electrical engineering in Bologna, Italy and completed post- graduate studies in Sussex University in England, where he was influenced by Marxist philosopher Istvan Meszaros.

(Additional reporting by Caracas newsroom; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne, Kieran Murray and Eric Walsh)

Reuters (Estados Unidos)

 


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