Cuban ex-diplomat Alarc n dies at 77

Cuban ex-diplomat Alarc n dies at 77

HAVANA - Ricardo Alarc n, one of the most powerful men in Cuba under former President Fidel Castro and a key player in relations with the United States, died on Saturday evening in Havana, his family said.

The former diplomat was one of the architects of the first migratory dialogue between Washington and Havana in 1978, the year in which negotiations began with a group of representatives of the Cuban community in the United States.

Alarc n played a key role in negotiating an immigration agreement with the United States that put an end to the exodus of Cubans by sea in 1994. He was also instrumental in arranging the return of young castaway Eli n Gonz lez from relatives in Miami to his father in Cuba in 2000.

The cigar-puffing and rum-sipping Alarc n, invariably clad in a white guayabera, at one point became the third most powerful man in the country's Communist Party elite after Fidel and Raul Castro.

He was a foreign minister between 1992 and 1993 and then served as president of the National Assembly for 20 years until he was removed from the post and the ruling political leadership.

No reason was given for Alarc n's fall from grace, however his closest aid, Miguel Alvarez, had been arrested the previous year for being a U.S. spy and it is standard procedure in such cases to consider all contacts compromised.

Alarc remained a loyal member of the Revolution despite his political downfall.

To Ricardo Alarc n de Quesada, the master of diplomats of our generation, we will always have deep respect, admiration and infinite affection, Deputy Foreign Minister Josefina Videl, Cuba's lead negotiator with the administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama, tweeted on Sunday.

Alarc n was born on May 21, 1937. He participated in the July 26 Movement, the revolutionary organization that overthrew U.S. backed dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

Alarc n then served as a leader of the University Student Federation and later the Union of Young Communists, the youth arm of the ruling Communist Party.

During his years as a head of Parliament, Alarc n played an important role in the island's campaign for the release of five Cuban intelligence agents who had been sentenced to long prison terms in the United States for espionage.