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3 Women Named to Venezuela Cabinet

August 27, 2000

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) _ Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez appointed three ``revolutionary″ women as top ministers Sunday in what had previously been a male-dominated Cabinet.

Chavez, who was re-elected to a fresh six-year term on July 30, stressed that reshuffling the 14-member Cabinet does not represent a change in the government’s economic and social policies.

``Just like in a baseball game changes are made _ the shortstop is moved to second base, or one runner is changed for another ... but the game strategy remains the same,″ Chavez said Sunday during his weekly radio program, ``Hello President.″

Chavez picked Blancanieves Portocarrero to replace Lino Martinez as labor minister. Portocarrero had served as vice president to a special assembly which drafted a new constitution tailored to Chavez’s specifications.

Former Commerce Minister Juan Montilla will be replaced by Luisa Romero Bermudez, president of the state import-export bank, and Deputy Health Minister Analisa Osorio Granado will take the job of environment minister. Jesus Perez had held that position.

These were not Chavez’s first female appointments. Last year he named Atala Uriana to the top environmental post, making her the first woman in Venezuela’s Cabinet. She left office after a few months to join the constitutional assembly.

Chavez called all three new ministers ``revolutionary women″ who are dedicated to his self-proclaimed ``peaceful and democratic revolution″ in this South American nation of 23 million.

Few Cabinet changes had been expected, despite heavy criticism by many business leaders and economic analysts of Chavez’ economic team for its state-oriented economic policies.

``This is more of a cosmetic change than anything else,″ said Teodoro Petkoff, a former planning minister who is now director of a local newspaper critical of the government.

Analysts had speculated that Vice President Isaias Rodriguez, an expert in labor law who is drafting a plan for Venezuela’s new social security and pensions systems, could be named labor minister, but he was left in his post.

Political analysts see Rodriguez as a moderate voice in the government which has served to counterbalance Chavez’ radical governing style and fiery leftist rhetoric.

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