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Chavez creates new Cabinet post, denies speculation about reshuffling

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Chavez says political opponents are trying to destabilize his government
  • He meets with top government ministers a week after revealing he has cancer
  • Chavez ratifies his inner circle and creates a new Cabinet post
  • Analyst: "This is the kind of thing that just adds to the uncertainty"

(CNN) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez created a new Cabinet post focusing on the country's youth Thursday, but he dismissed widespread speculation about reshuffling within his inner circle.

"There are so many rumors arising, taking advantage of the health situation that I'm going through, trying to destabilize (the government)...a dirty war, a psychological war," he said in a meeting with top military leaders and government ministers broadcast on the state-run VTV network.

The meeting came a week after Chavez announced that doctors had removed a cancerous tumor from his body.

The Venezuelan leader made a surprise return to his country Monday after spending more than three weeks undergoing medical treatment in Cuba.

Chavez has not said where the tumor was located or specified what his treatment entails, raising questions about his health and the country's political future.

On Thursday, he said that he "ratified" the roles of the country's top military leaders and government ministers, including Vice President Elia Jaua.

"Their time has been extended," he said, laughing as he referred to allegations that his illness has caused divisions within his administration.

Chavez later announced the appointment of journalist Maria Pilar Hernandez to a new Cabinet post, the minister of youth.

Since Chavez's return, Venezuelan media reports have speculated about possible reshuffling among Chavez's inner circle.

In an analysis released earlier this week, the STRATFOR global intelligence firm also predicted impending Cabinet changes to manage "internal rifts" within Chavez's government.

Thursday's announcement doesn't diminish that possibility, according to Reva Bhalla, the firm's director of analysis.

"Everyone is kind of watching their back and waiting to see who could be sacrificed, who can be promoted. I think this is the kind of thing that just adds to the uncertainty," she said. "It by no means rules out further reshuffles down the line."

CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.