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Venezuela's 'tiger' foreign minister Rodriguez quits

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CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez left her post on Wednesday to run for a seat in a controversial new congress, drawing praise from her boss as a "tiger" for her feisty defense of the socialist government.

Historian and deputy foreign minister Samuel Moncada will replace her, President Nicolas Maduro said, announcing the diplomatic shake-up in a speech on state TV.

"She truly deserves the recognition of the entire country because she has defended Venezuelan sovereignty, peace and independence like a tiger," Maduro said of Rodriguez, who had been Venezuela's top diplomat since the end of 2014.

"Congratulations comrade! Job well done."

Like some other senior Maduro allies, Rodriguez will now be running for a seat in a new Constituent Assembly in an election set for July 30.

Venezuela's opposition is boycotting the vote, saying it is rigged in Maduro's favor and intended purely to keep the ruling Socialist Party in power despite its current unpopularity.

The president says the new assembly, a super body with powers to rewrite the constitution and override other institutions, is necessary to bring peace after nearly three months of anti-government unrest that have killed 75 people.

Outgoing foreign minister Rodriguez has been a diehard envoy for Maduro, even trying to crash a meeting of regional bloc Mercosur after Venezuela's suspension and lambasting critics of her government in often colorful language.

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