Ricardo Alarcón, Castro confidant and top Cuban envoy, dies

HAVANA (AP) — Ricardo Alarcón, who was for years president of the Cuban parliament and one of the country’s most prominent diplomats, has died in Havana, Cuban authorities reported Sunday. He was 84 years old.

Alarcón was the trusted adviser of Fidel Castro, and his brother and successor Raúl, for decades and was a key negotiator in the difficult talks with the United States on issues such as immigration and the legal battle for the return of the boy Elián González to Cuba in 2000. .

Alarcón did not participate directly in the negotiations that led to the island’s thaw with Washington in 2014 under the direction of Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro, since by then he had already left public life.

However, he was heavily involved in efforts to secure the release of five Cuban intelligence agents detained in Florida in 1999. His return to Cuba coincided with the process of reestablishing diplomatic relations.

“To Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada, teacher of the diplomats of our generation, we will always keep deep respect, admiration and infinite affection. Thank you for the privilege and honor of having been his disciple, ”said Deputy Minister Josefina Vidal on Twitter.

Alarcón, who spoke English fluently, was frequently interviewed on US television channels about the policies of the island’s communist government.

He was one of the top leaders and member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party, and was even mentioned as a possible successor to Fidel Castro before his brother Raúl Castro assumed the leadership of the country in 2008.

Dressed in his traditional guayabera, his cigar in bony hands with long fingers and his thin glasses, Alarcón used to combine harsh rhetoric and fine sarcasm to criticize US policy towards Cuba, which he attributed to the influence of the Cuban exile in Miami.

During the legal dispute over the custody of Elián González, Alarcón was a personal advisor to the minor’s father. During the process he compared the Cuban exiles in Miami with a “banana republic” and a “wild west” where no law arrived.

Alarcón, who has often described the US embargo as “genocidal,” has been president of the National Assembly since 1993. He retired as leader in 2013.

At the head of this institution in 2002, Alarcón led efforts to inscribe the permanence of the socialist system in the Constitution, defying the growing demands for democratic reforms from the opposition and some governments.

Before becoming a parliamentarian, Alarcón served as foreign minister and twice Cuba’s ambassador to the United Nations: between 1966-1978 and between 1990-92. There, he was Vice President of the UN General Assembly and Chairman of the Administrative Council of the UN Development Program.

Born on May 21, 1937, Alarcón was a doctor of philosophy and letters. As a young man he was a staunch opponent of the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista and was part of the movement that overthrew him.

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