* Chavez names agriculture minister as vice president
* Confirms new defense minister following resignations (Recasts, adds details, background)
CARACAS, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday named Agriculture Minister Elias Jaua as the country’s new vice president.
Jaua assumes the post after the resignation of Ramon Carrizalez this week and he will maintain his position as agriculture minister, Chavez said on state television.
“There were a lot of candidates but I decided on Elias. He’s a young Venezuelan dedicated to the revolution,” the leftist leader said.
Jaua is a former university activist who became a key player in Chavez’s land reform campaign that in 2005 began expropriating large farms to distribute them to small farmers.
Chavez confirmed Carlos Mata as the new defense minister, replacing Carrizalez who was simultaneously serving as defense minister and vice president.
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 ease his tight grip on the OPEC nation’s Congress. (Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by John O‘Callaghan)