Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez shuffled his Cabinet on Thursday, naming a retired military officer as vice president and making other changes a month after a debilitating defeat in a referendum that would have expanded his power.
Ramon Carrizales, currently the housing minister, will replace outgoing Vice President Jorge Rodriguez, who many government supporters accused of failing to organize an efficient get-out-the-vote campaign ahead of the Dec. 2 vote on constitutional changes.
The amendments would have abolished presidential term limits, allowing Chavez to run again in 2012. The changes would have also given him control over the central bank, let him handpick regional officials and allowed authorities to detain citizens without charge during a state of emergency.
Chavez -- a fierce critic of Washington and close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro -- says the proposed amendments promoted what he calls "21st Century socialism" and he vowed to implement similar reforms in the future.
"We slipped, that's all," Chavez said late on Thursday in reference to the referendum loss. "We are going to move forward."
Chavez said he planned to make at least 13 Cabinet changes, most still unannounced.
Among the announced changes are Andres Izarra, president of the TV network Telesur, taking over the Information Ministry; and Socorro Hernandez, currently president of the state-run CANTV telephone company, replacing Telecommunications Minister Jesse Chacon. Chacon will move to head the Popular Participation Ministry.
Chavez said he was seeking to tackle lingering problems such as corruption and inefficiency within state-run institutions.
Rodriguez, who was perceived by Venezuelans on both sides of the country's political divide as a truculent radical, will lead an initiative to launch Chavez's socialist party later this month, Chavez said in a telephone interview broadcast on state television.
In Venezuela, the vice president is appointed directly by the president -- rather than elected -- and is part of the Cabinet. The vice president does not wield much power, but would take over the presidency if the sitting president dies or is otherwise unable to fulfill duties.
Chavez generally overhauls his Cabinet once a year, usually moving close political allies from one ministry to another while handpicking others from the military or state institutions.