US urges new Cuba leader to end ‘repression’

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Cuba’s new president Miguel Diaz-Canel. (Photo: AFP)

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — The United States grudgingly acknowledged Cuba’s “undemocratic” transition to a new leader on Thursday and urged him to allow the island’s people greater political freedom.

Earlier, Cuba’s National Assembly formalised the election of top Communist Party figure and first vice president Miguel Diaz-Canel to succeed Raul Castro as the country’s first non-Castro ruler in six decades.

“We are disappointed that the Cuban government opted to silence independent voices and maintain its repressive monopoly on power, rather than allow its people a meaningful choice through free, fair and competitive elections,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

“Cuba’s new president should take concrete steps to improve the lives of the Cuban people, to respect human rights and to cease repression and allow greater political and economic freedoms.”

Washington and Havana resumed diplomatic ties in 2015 but relations between the neighbors and former Cold War foes have remained testy, and a US trade embargo remains largely in place.

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