He did not give details on most of the other cabinet changes, but said it was important to reach out to Venezuela's middle class and other sectors of society often alienated by his pro-poor policies.

"We are not extremists and we cannot be. We have to look for alliances with the middle classes," he said.

New Year pardon

The president said he had no plans to eliminate private property, a fear of many of his opponents.

In a further conciliatory measure he declared a pardon on New Year's Eve that is expected to free from jail hundreds of people who took part in a coup that briefly removed him from power in 2002.

The Chavez administration has 24 ministry positions. The team was last reshuffled in late 2006, after Chavez was re-elected.

"I cannot tell you [details of the other changes] because I  haven't spoken to all of them," Chavez said on VTV network.

On December 2 Chavez lost his bid to have 69 constitutional changes passed by referendum.

The measures were defeated 51 per cent to 49 per cent and represented the first setback at the polls for Chavez since he first took office in 1998.

Rodriguez is a combative figure who was brought in by Chavez last year to oversee a number of nationalisations in the drive towards what Chavez calls "21st Century socialism".

Under Venezuela's constitution, the vice president takes over if the president dies or is unable to fulfil his duties.