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Page last updated at 13:21 GMT, Tuesday, 2 June 2009 14:21 UK

Salvador leftist leader sworn in

Maurico Funes with his son after the swearing-in
Mauricio Funes is restoring diplomatic ties with Cuba

A left-wing former television journalist, Mauricio Funes, has been sworn in as president of El Salvador.

President Funes heads the FMLN, the former Marxist rebels who fought a 12-year civil war against US-backed governments until 1992.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was a guest at the swearing-in ceremony in the capital, San Salvador.

Hours later, Mr Funes signed a document restoring full diplomatic ties with Cuba, after a break of 50 years.

Links with Cuba were severed because of the revolution which brought Fidel Castro to power in Havana in 1959.

But President Funes, 49, said: "Diplomatic, cultural and trade relations will be established immediately with our sister nation of Cuba."

Still friends

El Salvador had been the only remaining Latin American country without ties with Havana.

A meeting of the Organisation of American States in Honduras this week is expected to press for Cuba's re-admission to the body, despite objections from Washington.

Mr Funes, who won the election on 15 March, said that as well as restoring relations with Cuba, El Salvador would remain friendly towards the US.

In his inaugural speech, Mr Funes said the "strong examples" of US President Barack Obama and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva were "proof that progressive leaders - instead of being a threat - can be a new, safe alternative for their people".

Mrs Clinton said the election of Mr Funes was testament to the strength of democracy in the Americas.

The new government replaces the conservative administration of Tony Saca, who was seen as one of the staunchest allies of the US in the region.

The right-wing Arena party had won every presidential election since the end of El Salvador's civil war.

The conflict ended in a UN-sponsored peace accord after the loss of more than 70,000 lives.




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