CARACAS (Reuters) - President Nicolas Maduro named powerful Foreign Minister Rafael Ramirez to a new post as envoy to the United Nations on Friday, saying the appointment would strengthen Venezuela’s voice on the world body’s Security Council from Jan. 1.
Venezuela’s socialist government sees its imminent two-year seat on the Security Council as a chance to raise its international profile and counteract U.S. global influence.
Ramirez, a long-time former energy minister and head of state oil company PDVSA, has headed the Foreign Ministry since September and has continued to be Venezuela’s representative at the oil producers’ cartel OPEC.
Former Information Minister Delcy Rodriguez, a lawyer who stepped down from that post in October, will take over at the Foreign Ministry, the president said.
Ramirez’s appointment to the U.N. post likely will be interpreted by government opponents as a further demotion for one of the most powerful men in Venezuela.
He was moved from the twin oil posts and another position as vice president for the economy after proposing reforms - such as a unified currency rate and a rise in gasoline prices - that did not win approval.
Maduro, who made the announcement via Twitter, stressed that Ramirez’s move was a direct result of Venezuela’s imminent heightened status at the United Nations.
“We believe in a multipolar and multicentric world, and from the U.N. Security Council we are going to fight for a new 21st-century world,” said Maduro, who became president last year after Hugo Chavez died of cancer.
“With Chavez’s Bolivarian vision, we are going to fulfill our task of defending the right to peace and sovereignty for the peoples of the world,” he added, in a reference to Chavez’s inspiration, the Venezuela independence hero Simon Bolivar.
Foreign foes of the Maduro government, particularly U.S. Republican politicians, say Venezuela should never have been awarded a U.N. Security Council seat given this year’s repression of opposition-led street protest.
Maduro termed the protests - which sparked violence killing 43 people, including demonstrators, government supporters and security officials - a U.S.-fanned coup attempt.
Venezuela was elected to the U.N. Security Council in October by the 193-member General Assembly with 181 votes. Malaysia, Angola, New Zealand and Spain were also elected to the Security Council.
Chavez’s daughter, Maria Gabriela Chavez, is Venezuela’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations.
It was unclear if Ramirez would continue to exercise his OPEC role from his new U.N. position. “I accept with revolutionary discipline President Maduro’s decision,” Ramirez tweeted. “From any place or position that the revolution decides, I will battle to defend our fatherland with honesty and firmness.”
Editing by Diego Ore and Leslie Adler