Panamanian salsa star Ruben Blades has been named as his native country's new tourism minister.

Blades, who failed in a presidential bid a decade ago, is a personal friend of president-elect MARTIN TORRIJOS and was a driving force in his political campaign.

He says, "All the effort and sacrifice is worth it for my country. I'm leaving behind a successful music and movie career... I'm not coming with airs and graces, just a desire to work for my country.

"I'm not thinking about what I am going to do in five years or if I am going to return to doing shows.

"I'm just thinking that Panama is going to have much stronger tourism than now."

Blades, whose position will take effect next month (SEP04), is the second Latin American music star to enter government recently. Brazilian pop icon GILBERTO GIL is culture minister in the government of President LUIZ INACIO LULA DA SILVA.

15/08/2004 20:57