CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez named a new vice president on Wednesday, choosing his longtime foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro.
Chavez made the announcement at an event where he was declared the winner of Sunday's presidential election. He called for a round of applause for his outgoing vice president, Elias Jaua, who has held the post since 2010 and is running for a governor's post in December elections.
Maduro has been Venezuela's top diplomat since 2006, and his prominence at government events in recent months had generated speculation that Chavez might choose him as vice president.
Chavez's recent struggle with cancer has also led to questions about whom he could choose as a successor if his illness were to worsen. But Chavez said in June, after a year of cancer treatment that included surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatment, that tests had found he was cancer-free.
The president called the 49-year-old Maduro a "great public servant from all these years on different fronts of battle."
Before becoming foreign minister, Maduro was president of the National Assembly and is an important leader in Chavez's United Socialist Party of Venezuela.
"Look where Nicolas is going, the bus driver," Chavez said, referring to Maduro's days driving a bus in Caracas before he got involved in national politics. "Look how they've mocked him. The bourgeoisie makes fun."
Chavez's close friendship with Maduro goes back to the 1980s, when the leftist president was an army officer and formed a clandestine movement that eventually carried out a failed coup attempt in 1992.