Venezuela's Chavez fires justice min and vice-pres
CARACAS Jan 4 (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has fired his justice minister, citing a spate of prison violence, and has replaced Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel without explanation.
There was no change at the Oil Ministry, with Rafael Ramirez continuing to steer energy policy in the fourth-biggest crude exporter to the United States.
In firing Interior and Justice Minister Jesse Chacon on Wednesday night, Chavez referred to Venezuela's run-away violent crime rates and the "painful tragedy" at Uribana jail in the western state of Lara, where 16 prisoners died in a gang fight on Monday.
To compound those killings, six prisoners transferred from Uribana after the violence were shot and stabbed to death on being moved to a new prison.
"It is the result of failings in internal security and infrastructure," Chavez told state television.
Chacon will be replaced by Pedro Carreno, a Chavez loyalist who heads a parliamentary judicial commission and who played a leading role in the president's re-election campaign last month.
Chavez gave no reason for firing political veteran Jose Vicente Rangel, who has often been one of the toughest advocates of the president's self-styled leftist revolution.
"The decision to relieve Jose Vicente of his post was not easy for me because he is like a star pitcher and I regard him with the same respect and affection as a son would a father," Chavez said.
Rangel will be replaced by Jorge Rodriguez, a Chavez ally who served as a director of the country's electoral commission during a heated 2004 recall referendum against the president.
Rodriguez, a psychiatrist, is idolized by many of Chavez's followers because of his father, who died after being tortured by the army for alleged involvement with a left-wing guerrillas in the 1970s.
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