SAN SALVADOR (AFP) — El Salvador and Cuba formally reestablished diplomatic ties, broken since the Cuban revolution 50 years ago.
The move came after former journalist Mauricio Funes -- the first leftist leader elected here in 20 years -- was sworn in as president of El Salvador.
In his first act as new leader, Funes said he was restoring full diplomatic relations with Cuba, becoming the last Latin American nation to do so.
Under pressure from Washington, El Salvador had severed ties with the communist island during the depths of the Cold War.
"We will immediately establish diplomatic, cultural and commercial ties with Cuba, our sister nation," Funes said during his inaugural address.
Senior diplomats from both countries then signed an accord officially reestablishing relations broken since 1961.
El Salvador's newly installed foreign minister, Estaban Lazo, said "they should never have severed ties with Cuba," referring to his predecessors.
Funes, the first leftist to be elected president of El Salvador, also vowed to renew and expand ties with the United States, at the ceremony attended by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Clinton earlier hailed the "peaceful transfer of power" in El Salvador after two decades of US-backed rightist governments.
Funes, the candidate of the ex-rebel Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), defeated Rodrigo Avila of the conservative Arena party in March with 51.2 percent of the vote against 48.7 percent.
In March this year Costa Rica reestablished diplomatic ties with Cuba, which along with today's move leaves the United States as the only country in the America's without normal diplomatic ties with the island.
Washington is now facing increased pressure from its western hemisphere neighbors to normalize ties.
Since President Barack Obama took office in January, he has raised hopes among many of his southern neighbors that he could lift the Cuban economic embargo, even if he insists that Cuba first undertake democratic reforms.
Leaders from 34 countries from the Organization of American States (OAS) are set to gather in Honduras Tuesday for a summit likely to focus on Cuba's possible return to the pan-American body after a 47-year absence.
The communist-ruled island was suspended from the organization in 1962 under pressure from the United States, which sought its diplomatic isolation.
Most Latin American countries favor an immediate and unconditional repeal of the 1962 resolution. But the United States insists that Havana first introduce democratic reforms and show respect for human rights and basic freedoms.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday reiterated that the United States would stand firm.
"We believe that membership in the OAS comes with responsibilities and that we must all hold each other accountable," she said.
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