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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 June, 2003, 00:32 GMT 01:32 UK
Peru's first woman PM sworn in

The first woman prime minister in Peru's history has been sworn in by President Alejandro Toledo.

New Peruvian Prime Minister Beatriz Merino
Beatriz Merino: Respected for raising tax revenue
Beatriz Merino, a 54-year-old tax lawyer, was picked by Mr Toledo to head a new cabinet after former Prime Minister Luis Solari and his cabinet resigned en masse last Wednesday.

Ms Merino took office at a time of political and economic turmoil in Peru, which has seen President Toledo's popularity plunge to just 11%.

A former congresswoman, Ms Merino is well known and respected among Peruvians for raising tax revenue in a country where more than half the population lives in poverty.

Tough task

The new cabinet is the third chosen by President Toledo since he took office less than two years ago.

The previous government resigned after legislators refused to back Mr Toledo's new tax plans, which had the support of the cabinet.

There are six new ministers in the cabinet - the other 10 were part of the last team.

Foreign Minister Allan Wagner has kept his post, as has Economy Minister Javier Silva Ruete.

Swearing in his ministers, Mr Toledo said: "This act is only the beginning of a turning point for my government, a relaunching of my government."

Ms Merino faces an uphill task. The country has been beset by a series of social protests, a month-long teachers' strike and a resurgence of activity by Maoist Shining Path rebels.

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