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THE AMERICAS

Venezuela's new VP to be key figure for Chavez

FILE - In this Dec. 18, 2007 file photo Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, left, talks to his Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro at the University of Uruguay in Montevideo, Uruguay. President Hugo Chavez on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, named Nicolas Maduro as his new vice president. Maduro, a former National Assembly member, has headed the foreign ministry since 2006, and is seen as one of the administration's hard-liners. (AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico, File)AP2007

A mustachioed former bus driver who rose to become Venezuela's top diplomat has emerged as the vice presidential pick of President Hugo Chavez as the leftist leader prepares to launch a six-year term following two cancer operations.

Nicolas Maduro has shown unflagging loyalty and has maintained close ties to Chavez's allies in Cuba while becoming the president's principal spokesman and an influential leader within his socialist party.

Chavez announced Maduro as his new vice president on Wednesday, three days after winning re-election.

Eduardo Gamarra is a Latin American studies professor at Florida International University in Miami.

He says Chavez's choice of Maduro was expected, in his words, because "he appears strong, he's charismatic to some, and he is loyal."