Chavez delegates some power ahead of Cuba trip

CNN Wire Service

For the first time in his more than 12 years in office, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez delegated some of his powers to his vice president and finance minister as he prepared to travel to Cuba Saturday for cancer treatment.

The president signed a decree allowing Vice President Elias Jaua and Finance Minister Jorge Giordani to make “some decisions that up to now depended on me.”

Chavez handed Vice President Elias Jaua several powers, including the power of expropriation — albeit with a presidential okay.

Jaua will also be able to name vice ministers and heads of agencies, approve transfers of budgets between ministries and exercise other budgetary powers.

The finance minister was given the power to make decisions on import taxes and value-added taxes.

Chavez made the announcement in a televised Cabinet meeting ahead of a trip to Cuba for cancer treatment.

Earlier in the day, the Venezuelan Congress voted to approve his trip to Cuba. The opposition, however, had called for Chavez to hand power over to Jaua during his absence. Supporters of Chavez, who hold a majority in Congress, argued that he was capable of leading the country from abroad.

“Within the dynamic of this deep reflection, and this scenario that we are in, it will be very useful to make changes,” Chavez said as he announced the delegations of power.

There will also be changes to his lifestyle, said Chavez, noting that he no longer drinks coffee. Before, he would drink “40 cups of coffee” during a meeting, he said.