CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The man President Hugo Chavez wants to succeed him is an intensely loyal 50-year-old former bus driver who has long served as the international face of Venezuela whenever the socialist president wasn't soaking up the limelight himself.
NICOLAS MADURO had been foreign minister since 2006. Chavez then tapped him as his vice president three days after winning re-election on Oct. 7
If the cancer-stricken Chavez survives until his Jan. 10 inauguration but dies during the first four years of his term, the constitution says that Maduro would take over temporarily and that new elections should be held within 30 days.
Chavez told Venezuelans on Saturday night if he isn't able to stay on he wants them to elect Maduro as his successor.
TOP DIPLOMAT: Maduro has been a key player in consolidating the ALBA bloc of leftist Latin American nations including Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and others, and in building closer ties with Iran, Russia and China in an effort to counteract U.S. influence. He is thought to have close ties to Cuba's former and current leaders Fidel and Raul Castro.
Chavez has always shown great affection for Maduro, kidding him publicly about the submarine sandwiches the burly foreign minister consumes. The two have been friends since the 1980s, when Chavez formed a clandestine movement that eventually launched a failed 1992 coup.
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