CARACAS – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has named Gen. Henry Rangel Silva as the new defense minister to replace Carlos Mata Figueroa, who hopes to be the ruling party candidate for the state of Nueva Esparta, which includes the tourist island of Margarita.
Chavez announced the appointment of Rangel Silva after attending Mass in the western Venezuelan state of Portuguesa, which all radio and television outlets were obliged to air and during which he thanked the patroness of the country, Our Lady of Coromoto, for his present good health.
“I ask today for General in Chief Rangel Silva...unpretentious soldier of our Bolivarian army,” Chavez said about the head of the Operational Strategic Command of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces “that Our Lady bless him and help him in this difficult task of directing” the armed forces.
He also said that the new air force commander will be Gen. Jorge Perez Escalona.
The president recalled that Rangel Silva stood by him during the attempted coup he led against the Carlos Andres Perez government on Feb. 4, 1992, and that Perez Escalona was in the group of soldiers that insisted on ending that mandate on Nov. 27 of the same year.
Last July 1, the day after Chavez announced that he had been operated for a cancerous tumor, Rangel Silva declared that the Bolivarian National Armed Forces guaranteed their loyalty to the head of state.
In 2008, the U.S. Department of the Treasury accused Rangel Silva of being involved in aiding drug trafficking activities of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, accusations he has repeatedly denied.
On Saturday, Chavez received his Peruvian counterpart, Ollanta Humala, in the southern Venezuelan state of Bolivar, where the oil-rich Orinoco Belt is located, for a working session at which they planned to establish several “strategic accords.”
“The people of Venezuela welcome you...we’re going to work hard over the next few hours to draw up our first strategic accords,” Chavez said at the international airport in the city of Puerto Ordaz in Bolivar state.
The Venezuelan president said that the accords they sign will cover the economic, social, geopolitical, cultural, technological and energy spheres “to advance the Peru-Venezuela alliance bilaterally...and beyond the South American union of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC),” a reference to the association established last Dec. 3 in Caracas at a meeting of 30 presidents, but which Humala was unable to attend.
Of particular interest at Saturday’s meeting would be the establishment of bilateral relations between state-run oil companies PDVSA and PetroPeru.