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Peru's Prime Minister, Cabinet  Asked to Resign - 2003-12-13


Peru's President Alejandro Toledo has asked for the resignation of his entire government, including the popular Prime Minister, Beatriz Merino, who has been the target of anonymous attacks in Peruvian news media.

In a statement issued at the presidential palace late Friday, Mr. Toledo said Ms. Merino should step down along with her 15-member Cabinet. The official announcement says the president took this decision "in light of recent political events," but gives no further explanation. All presidential advisers also are being asked to resign.

President Toledo's statement said a new Cabinet will be sworn in on Monday.

Prime Minister Merino, who currently is visiting the United States, has been one of the most popular figures in Peru's government, with approval ratings far higher than those for Mr. Toledo. However, she has been the target of a series of rumors in recent weeks, accusing her of everything from corruption to lesbianism.

The prime minister has denied the anonymous allegations against her. She says she is a victim of a smear campaign.

Ms. Merino, 54, is a lawyer and economist trained in the United States at Harvard University and in Britain at the London School of Economics. She was named prime minister two years ago - the first woman to hold that post in Peru.

President Toledo's move to reshuffle the government comes as recent polls show his approval ratings have fallen below 20 percent.

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