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Chavez faces key resignation as discontent grows

Venezuelan Vice President and defence minister Ramon Carrizalez resigned on Monday, adding to President Hugo Chavez's woes over water and electricity shortages, a festering media crisis, and a sharp currency devaluation.

REUTERS - Venezuela's Vice President Ramon Carrizalez, who was also defense minister, resigned on Monday citing personal reasons, adding to the political problems facing leftist President Hugo Chavez.
Chavez is facing growing discontent over shortages of electricity and water and a sharp currency devaluation this month as he heads into legislative elections in September that could reduce his tight grip of the OPEC nation's Congress.
On Monday, scores of students marched in Caracas to protest a government shutdown of six televsion stations, including popular opposition station RCTV. Police used truncheons and tear gas to disperse the protesters.
Chavez named the even-tempered and soft-spoken Carrizalez to the number two job in 2008, and in 2009 tapped him to simultaneously serve as defense minister.
"The President of the Republic ... accepted the resignation that was presented for strictly personal reasons by Vice President Ramon Carrizalez," Communications Minister Blanca Eekhout said in a statement on state television.
State-backed news network Telesur reported that Carrizalez' wife, Environment Minister Yuviri Ortega, also resigned. Carrizalez denied the resignations had to do with differences with the government, Telesur reported.
The close Chavez confidant, who is a former army officer like the president, was seen as one of Chavez's more capable administrators. This month, Chavez fired a recently named electricity minister for botching a Caracas electricity rationing scheme.
He has also changed his finance minister, Ali Rodriguez, who he named electricity minister this month. Left-wing academic Jorge Giordani took over at finance.
Carrizalez previously served as infrastructure minister and housing minister, where he took on some of the nation's thorniest problems including its acute housing shortage and the 2006 collapse of a crucial bridge linking Caracas to the airport and its main port.
Chavez named Carrizalez vice president just after his first-ever ballot box defeat in a constitutional overhaul referendum in 2007, replacing the combative Jorge Rodriguez.


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