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El Salvador president sworn in
Leader of former Marxist rebels restores ties with Cuba in first act as president.
Last Modified: 01 Jun 2009 23:44 GMT
Funes has pledged to maintain strong
ties with Washington [AFP]

The leader of a party founded by Marxist rebels has been sworn in as the president of El Salvador, pledging to maintain good relations with Washington while restoring full diplomatic ties with Cuba after 50 years.

Mauricio Funes, the leader of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), was sworn in at a ceremony attended by Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, on Monday.

Alfredo Lazo, the Cuban vice-president, also attended the ceremony in San Salvador, as did Brazil's leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Michelle Bachelet of Chile.

"We turned to the strong examples of Obama and Lula as proof that progressive leaders - instead of being a threat - can be a new, safe alternative for their people," Funes said in his inaugural address.

Civil war

Funes' first act as president was to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, leaving the US as the last country in the Western Hemisphere with no formal ties with the Caribbean island.

A former television journalist, the 59-year-old was elected in March, becoming the country's first left-wing leader in more than 20 years.

He replaced Tony Saca, whose staunchly conservative government was one of the strongest backers of Washington in the region.

He is the first FMLN leader not have fought during the country's 1980-1992 civil war in which 75,000 people were killed, many by right-wing death squads.

Funes' elder brother Roberto was killed by police during the conflict.

After the inauguration, Clinton said the US wanted to improve relations with Latin America.

"We have to recognise that our country is not perfect either, that some of the difficulties that we had historically in forging strong and lasting relationships in our hemisphere are a result of us perhaps not listening, perhaps not paying enough attention," she told US embassy employees.

Source:
Agencies
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