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A New Generation Of Leaders

Cuba experts point to four key figures as new leaders who may fill Cuba's political void following Fidel Castro's presidency.

Raúl Castro

Raúl Castro, 70, is first vice president of both the Council of State and Council of Ministers. He is also minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces. Raúl is the constitutionally designated successor and younger brother of President Fidel Castro.

Raúl and Fidel, along with 800 guerillas, overthrew the Fulgencio Batista government in 1959, and Raúl has been the leader of the military ever since.

Because of his military position, Raúl's first vice president position was a stabilizing one, according to Nelson P Valdes, full professor of sociology and director of the Program of Academic Research of Cuba at the University of Mexico.

"Fidel didn't have to worry about the military overthrowing him because the military is controlled by his brother," Valdes said. "So the true question is: Where will Raúl find his own Raúl?"

However, his military position may work to his advantage as president, as well, said Pamela S. Falk, professor of international law at the City University of New York School of Law.

"The Cuban government has made it clear that Raúl is next in line and that's likely to be true, assuming that he remains in good health. He's only four years younger," Falk said. "But, he does control the armed forces and that is key to the fact that he will be able to take over because he'll be able to keep calm in the country."

Ricardo Alarcón
Ricardo Alarcón, 64, has been president of the National Assembly since 1993 and was a former ambassador to the United Nations. He speaks English fluently and is the most quoted Cuban official in the United States concerning the Cuban government system.

"Alarcón has made it clear that he would like to take the leadership one day," said Carlos Alberto Montaner, president of the Cuban Liberal Union.

However, his current position in the National Assembly may make it difficult for him to pursue the role of president of the Republic of Cuba, Valdes said.

"Ricardo Alarcón is president of the National Assembly. He presides over discussion of the president, so he himself cannot be a candidate. He would have to resign as president of the National Assembly and that would insinuate that he wants to be president. But, in Cuba, you don’t do that. That would send a negative political perception to the people of Cuba. He could only resign if he's asked," Valdes said.

Carlos Lage
Carlos Lage, 50, serves as secretary of the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers and vice president of the Council of State.

"Carlos is considered to be the economic czar and he's credited for bringing around the Cuba government after the revolution," Falk said.

Felipe Pérez Roque
Felipe Pérez Roque, 36, is the Minister of Foreign Affairs and formerly was the head of Cuba's youth movement. He is very popular in Cuba, Falk said.

"When Castro fainted, Felipe was the one who got up and asked for calm. He's more the voice of Castro than anyone else," Falk said. "He's more slated to be the next-generation leader instead of a transition leader."

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