Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, still hospitalized in Cuba following a Dec. 11 operation to remove a cancerous tumor, has named a new foreign minister, the Andean nation's acting head of state said Tuesday.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced the appointment during an appearance in the National Assembly.

Venezuela's new top diplomat will be former Vice President Elias Jaua, who left the No. 2 post last year to make an ultimately unsuccessful bid for a state governorship.

Maduro, who has been foreign minister since August 2006, succeeded Jaua as vice president and became acting president when Chavez suffered a recurrence of cancer.

Jaua thanked Chavez for "the gesture of confidence" and pledged to perform his new duties with "firmness, conscience and honesty."

"And especially in this moment where the fundamental task is the defense of political stability, of the unity of Venezuela, of national independence," Jaua told reporters.

The sociologist and one-time student leader is a close ally of Chavez and has held a succession of senior posts since the ailing president first took office in 1999.

Chavez, 58, who won another six-year term in the Oct. 7 election, has undergone four operations, chemotherapy and radiation since being diagnosed with cancer in June 2011.

The president is progressing favorably, the Venezuelan government said in the latest bulletin on Chavez's condition, but continues to battle a respiratory insufficiency caused by a post-operative infection.

Venezuela's Supreme Court ruled that Chavez could delay his swearing-in, set for last Thursday, without creating a constitutional vacuum and that Maduro may remain in charge during the president's absence. EFE