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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 January 2006, 07:39 GMT
Women get half Chile cabinet jobs
Chile's President-elect Michelle Bachelet
Michelle Bachelet said the cabinet represented a historic step for Chile
The Chilean President-elect, Michelle Bachelet, has unveiled a cabinet made up of an equal number of women and men.

Ms Bachelet, Chile's first female leader, had made a campaign promise to create an equal opportunity government.

Among the roles to go to women are the defence, economy and health ministries. Her chief-of-staff will also be female.

"This cabinet represents a historic step for equality between men and women," Ms Bachelet said. She and her cabinet will be sworn in on 11 March.

The 54-year-old became Latin America's third directly-elected woman president after a convincing poll win earlier this month.

Ms Bachelet said the 10 men and 10 women picked for her cabinet were "people with considerable intellectual, professional and political prestige".

Interior Minister: Andres Zaldivar
Foreign: Alejandro Foxley
Defence: Vivianne Blanlot
Finance: Andres Velasco
Economy: Ingrid Antonijevic
Chief-of-staff: Paulina Veloso

The team combined new faces with experience, she said, and reflected the major challenges which lie ahead for Chile.

The new interior minister will be Andres Zaldivar, while Alejandro Foxley will head the foreign ministry and Andres Velasco the finance ministry.

Engineer Vivianne Blanlot was named as the country's next defence minister, the post held by Ms Bachelet under outgoing President Ricardo Lagos.

Other women appointed include Paulina Veloso as chief-of-staff, Ingrid Antonijevic as economy minister and Clarisa Hardy as planning minister. Maria Soledad Barria will be in charge of health.

Ricardo Lagos Weber, son of the outgoing president, was given the cabinet role of government secretary, or presidential spokesman.

Ms Bachelet's nominations kept a balance between the different parties making up the governing centre-left alliance.

The president-elect, who was jailed and briefly tortured by Chile's former military junta, has promised to tackle the country's embedded social divide and build a more equitable and tolerant society .

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