Brother Raul, 75, may have to share power

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The Independent US

Even with Fidel Castro possibly on his death bed, Cubans are reluctant to speculate on the succession. But Raul Castro, Fidel's younger brother, who is 75, was recently confirmed in an interview as the heir apparent. Fidel said he had "no doubt" that when he died the national assembly would elect Raul.

But Raul may have to share power in a political group comprising himself; the Foreign Minister, Felipe Perez Roque; the head of the national assembly, Ricardo Alercon; Carlos Lage, the Economy Minister, who is 54; and Aurelio Alonso, a communist party member and sociologist.

Raul is Defence Minister and the man on whose shoulders responsibility for the running of the country has now been firmly placed. He has been the No 2 in Cuba for years and has long languished in the shadow of his charismatic brother.

Mr Roque is nicknamed Fax for his devotion to Mr Castro and the sense that he faithfully transmits his leader's thoughts and utterances. Short and stocky, he was the youngest member of the cabinet when appointed in 1999, and also the only one to be born after the revolution. Mr Roque was formerly an electronics engineer and student leader who served as Mr Castro's chief of staff for a decade prior to his ministry. He is a member of the central committee of the communist partyand serves on the council of state.

Ricardo Alarcon is frequently cited in US news media as a likely successor to Mr Castro. This may be because he was Cuba's UN ambassador for many years, from 1966. For a while he was foreign minister, but was dispatched to be president of the national assembly of Cuba in 1993 as a way of keeping him out of the international limelight. A graduate of the University of Havana with a doctorate in philosophy, he served in various diplomatic posts following the revolution. He remains close to Fidel and is his chief adviser on dealings with the US.

A wild card in the succession stakes is Fidel's son, Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart, or Fidelito Castro, who ran the country's nuclear energy programme until he was sacked in the early 1990s. He has recently been appointed as an advisor to his father, to whom he bears a striking resemblance.