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El Salvador's new leader restores ties with Cuba


MOSCOW, June 2 (RIA Novosti) - El Salvador's newly elected president signed an agreement to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, hours after being sworn in.

El Salvador severed diplomatic ties with Cuba 50 years ago, following the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power, and had been the only Latin American country which had no diplomatic relations with Havana.

Mauricio Funes, 49, a former television journalist, was inaugurated in San Salvador on Monday.

Funes won the March 15 election to become the first leftist leader in the history of the Central American state. He heads the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, formerly a rebel movement which fought the right-wing government during the 1980-92 civil war. The country had been governed by the conservative Nationalist Republican Alliance (Arena) party since the war.

After being sworn in, the president pledged to carry out wide-reaching reforms.

"Salvadorans asked for change. Change starts now," he said.

The leader has vowed to create some 100,000 jobs in the next 18 months, as well as to tackle corruption and tax evasion.

During the election campaign, he declared the resumption of diplomatic ties with Cuba as a top priority.

Hugo Martinez, the country's new foreign minister, said on Monday: "Diplomatic relations should have been restored long ago. In fact, relations with Cuba should never have been severed."

The presidents of Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Chile, as well as an official delegation from Cuba, attended the inauguration ceremony. The U.S. sent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The socialist leaders of Venezuela and Nicaragua, Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega, as well as their closest ally, Bolivian President Evo Morales, did not attend.

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