Alarcon apparently out as head of Cuba legislature

Ricardo Alarcon, the long-time head of Cuba's National Assembly, is absent from an official list of candidates for the February legislative election -- meaning he will soon leave office.

Alarcon's name is the most prominent one absent from the list of 612 candidates published in the state newspaper Granma.

The 75-year-old Alarcon has been a member of the political leadership of Cuba's Communist Party since 1992, and head of the National Assembly since 1993.

He has also for years been a key figure in the foreign policy of both President Raul Castro and his brother Fidel Castro, his predecessor.

Before his top legislative job, Alarcon was a professor, ambassador and Cuba's foreign minister, as well as the point man in negotiations with the United States.

Authorities have been silent on the reasons why Alarcon will be leaving office.

"Alarcon has not been close to Raul Castro," said Oscar Espinosa Chepe, an opposition economist.

With his exit, the last key figure in the circle of close Fidel Castro confidants "will disappear," Espinosa Chepe told AFP.

The new legislators will be elected on February 3 and there will likely be no surprises: every candidate on the list has been elected to the National Assembly since 1976.

Other candidates on the list include Fidel Castro, 86, who left office in 2006 due to illness, and 81-year-old Raul Castro.

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