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Cuba's new President Diaz-Canel vows to 'continue' revolution

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Cuba's outgoing President Raul Castro (right) and new President Miguel Diaz-Canel (Left) raise their arms in unison.

AFP, Havana, Cuba :
  Cuba's new President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who was on Thursday named as Raul Castro's successor, vowed to keep the Caribbean island on the path of "revolution" but also on the path of economic reform.
Cuba's new president Miguel Diaz-Canel on Thursday became the country's first leader in nearly 60 years who is not named Castro, pledging continuity for the Caribbean island during the historic transition of power.
"The mandate given by the people to this legislature is to continue the Cuban revolution at this crucial historic moment, which will be marked by what we must do to implement the economic model" put in place by Castro, he said.
"I have come to work, and not to make promises," he told the National Assembly, whose 605 delegates elected him in a vote on Wednesday, pledging to remain "loyal to the legacy of commandante Fidel Castro, but also to the example, the values and the teachings of General Raul Castro."
Castro, who remains head of the all-powerful Communist Party, would "preside over the most important decisions for the present and future of our nation." The 57-year-old, who has spent years climbing the party ranks, was named the sole candidate for the presidency on Wednesday and was formally named on Thursday to a five-year term, taking the helm a day before his 58th birthday.
Cuba, he said, would remain "olive green" in honor of the military fatigues worn by the victorious revolutionaries of 1959.
The silver-haired Diaz-Canel-a top Communist Party figure who has served as first vice president since 2013 -- assumed power from Raul Castro, who himself took over from his elder brother Fidel, father of the 1959 revolution.
In his first speech as president, Diaz-Canel vowed to keep the country on the path of that "revolution", but also on the road to economic reform, a process begun by Castro which saw him opening the door to small private entrepreneurs. "The mandate given by the people to this legislature is to continue the Cuban revolution at this crucial historic moment, which will be marked by what we must do to implement the economic model" put in place by Raul Castro, he said.
"I am here to work, not to make promises," said Diaz-Canel, who turns 58 on Friday.
But he will remain under the watchful eye of Castro, who confirmed that he will continue to serve as the head of Cuba's all-powerful Communist Party until its next congress in 2021. Diaz-Canel said in his own speech that Castro "will still preside over decisions of major importance for the present and future of the nation."
As the historic handover played out live on state TV, Cubans across the island were glued to their screens, watching at home or at work as the former engineer took his seat at the table, becoming the island's first president born after the revolution.
Diaz-Canel was voted in by the National Assembly on Wednesday, and the result was formalized on Thursday.
His appointment has many in the country of more than 11 million people-where the average monthly salary is $30 -- hoping he will push through reforms that will improve their daily lives.
"The power is passing to a much younger person, with new ideas, new perspectives, so we hope that the reforms will move much faster," said Yani Pulido, a 27-year-old waitress working in a bar in Old Havana.
Diaz-Canel received congratulations from the leaders of China, Russia, Britain, Spain and across Latin America, including from Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, a close ally of Cuba.

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