Cuba’s new president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, began his term on Thursday with a promise to defend the socialist revolution led by the Castro brothers since 1959.
He also gave a strident speech that emphasized the need to modernize the island’s economy.
A stalwart of the ruling Communist Party, Diaz-Canel was sworn in to replace Raul Castro by the National Assembly in a new chapter for the Caribbean island but one that has been carefully managed and is aimed at preserving the political system.
“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.
He delivered a long homage to 86-year-old Raul Castro, calling him the best student of his brother Fidel.
Miguel Diaz-Canel becomes the first leader of the Caribbean island in six decades who is not named Castro.
Diaz-Canel was elected in a landmark vote of the National Assembly which took place on Wednesday — he was the sole candidate for the presidency — with the result formally announced on Thursday.
He is the island’s first leader born after the revolution, and will be 58 on Friday.
The chamber erupted into applause as the result was read out, with many of the delegates smiling, and shaking hands warmly with Castro and Diaz-Canel.
As Diaz-Canel walked to the front of the chamber, he high-fived the front row of delegates and embraced Castro as he took the stage, images broadcast on state television showed.

Raul-Castro raising Miguel-Diaz-Canel’s hand
Then the 86-year-old Castro raised his successor’s left arm in the air in victory, prompting another wave of applause from the delegates — some of whom were in civilian attire, while others wore military fatigues.
It was a historic, though understated, handover.
As Castro got up from the seat he has occupied for the past 12 years, it was immediately taken by Diaz-Canel, a man nearly 30 years his junior who has spent years climbing the party ranks.
Next to him was the empty seat once occupied by Fidel, who died in 2016.
Between them, the Castro brothers made the island of more than 11 million people a key player in the Cold War and helped keep communism afloat despite the collapse of the Soviet Union.Raul has been in power since 2006, when he took over after illness sidelined Fidel.
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.
Havana has long hailed the showdown as American imperialism’s first great defeat in Latin America.
Diaz-Canel, who some say bears a passing resemblance to American actor Richard Gere, is a fan of The Beatles whose penchant for wearing jeans has set him apart in Havana’s corridors of power.
Although he has advocated fewer restrictions on the press and a greater openness to the internet, he also has a ruthless streak, with harsh words for Cuba’s dissidents and the United States.