New Cuban president sworn in to replace Raul Castro

Angel Rodriguez Negron fills his gasoline container at a gas station while others line up behind him after a general power outage in San Juan Puerto Rico Wednesday

Raul Castro has passed Cuba's presidency to Miguel Diaz-Canel, putting the island's government in the hands of someone outside the Castro family for the first time in almost six decades.

"The mandate given by the people to this house is to give continuity to the Cuban revolution in a crucial historic moment", Diaz-Canel told the assembly in his first speech as president.

Also on Thursday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang sent a congratulatory message to Diaz-Canel.

Castro's moves to open the economy have largely been frozen or reversed as soon as they began to generate conspicuous shows of wealth by the new entrepreneurial class in a country officially dedicated to equality among its citizens.

"I like sticking with the ideas of Fidel Castro because he did a lot for the people of Cuba, but we need rejuvenation, above all in the economy", said Melissa Mederos, a 21-year-old schoolteacher.

Still, that exchange marked less a departure than an evolution.

Thursday's much-anticipated transfer of power took place on the anniversary of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, when Fidel's forces defeated 1,400 US-backed rebels seeking to overthrow him.

Cuba is undergoing its biggest political transition since the 1950s as Miguel Diaz-Canel takes office as president, ending six decades of rule by the Castro family.

Relations have been strained again under President Donald Trump.

He will, however, remain head of the country's ruling Communist Party - and his presidential successor is a close ally of the outgoing 86-year-old leader.

And he noted he would have Raul Castro as a guide - a nod to those veterans of the revolution with concerns that their socialist legacy may be buried by the tide of reform.

He emphasized that reforms would follow a 12-year-plan laid out by the National Assembly and Communist Party that would allow moderate growth of private enterprise while maintaining the important sectors of the economy in the hands of the state. "A tape was leaked of him past year when he was talking to party leaders, and he took a very hard line against current bloggers, Internet access and even foreign governments". Cuban television did live coverage of the session.

That complex mixture of caution and hope found an unlikely echo across the straits of Florida, in the voice of hard-line Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

Li said China is willing to work with Cuba to continuously promote bilateral cooperation and work for a steady development of China-Cuba ties.

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