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New Venezuelan VP seen as possible successor to Chavez

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 2:33 PM EDT, Thu October 11, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Hugo Chavez named Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro as his new vice president
  • The current vice president is stepping down to run for a governorship
  • Observers are looking for clues of Chavez's successor in the pick

(CNN) -- Fresh off an electoral victory, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has named a new vice president, a closely watched move as questions over his health linger.

Chavez on Wednesday said Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro will be his new vice president.

An announcement of a new vice president was expected because the current one, Elias Jaua must step down from the post to run for a state governorship.

But observers of Venezuelan politics were keen to know who Chavez would name to replace Jaua. The president has claimed he is cured of cancer, but secrecy has shrouded his health and the true seriousness of his illness is unknown.

"This is the one thing we are all waiting to see," said Javier Corrales, a professor of political science at Amherst College. "This is a very important figurehead."

In the event Chavez becomes unable to govern or dies, Maduro would be next in line to either oversee new elections or finish out the term.

He is not a surprising choice because of his loyalty to Chavez, Corrales said.

Maduro often traveled with Chavez to Cuba for his cancer treatment, and is considered very close to the president.

According to Venezuela's state-run AVN news agency, Maduro stood out in a career at the capital's subway system and was a union leader.

After Chavez came to power, Maduro participated in an assembly that drafted a new constitution, and served as a congressman until 2006, when was tapped as foreign minister.

CNN's Mariano Castillo contributed to this report.

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