Ricardo Alarcon Dies, the Cuban Diplomat Who Was Sidelined in His Last Years

The most intense memory Cubans have of Alarcón is that of his debate with a student from the University of Informatics Sciences in 2008. (Cubadebate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 1 May 2022 — This Saturday, Cuban diplomat Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada passed away in Havana at the age of 84. Submerged in official oblivion, after retiring from public life, his health had deteriorated in recent months, family sources confirmed to 14ymedio.

Born in Havana in 1937, Alarcón entered the University of Havana in 1954 where he was part of the leadership of the University Student Federation (FEU). Later he joined the 26th of July Movement and later the 13th of March Revolutionary Directorate.

In 1961, two years after Fidel Castro came to power, he became president of the FEU, a position he held until 1962. That same year he was appointed Head of the Americas Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and served as Cuba’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations between 1966 and 1978.

Alarcón also held the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1992 to 1993, he was Cuba’s ambassador to the United Nations and for 20 years, between 1993 and 2013, he presided over the National Assembly of People’s Power.

In September 1996, he starred in an unprecedented debate with the exiled Jorge Más Canosa of the Cuban American Foundation, which was broadcast on CBS to more than 20 countries, but was only seen in Cuba at that time by a handful of high-ranking figures of the regime with access to satellite dishes.

At the beginning of this century, Alarcón became the most visible face in the campaign for the release of the five Cuban spies imprisoned in the United States after the dismantling of the Wasp Network. In 2012, his advisor Miguel Álvarez was arrested along with his wife, Mercedes Arce, and sentenced to 30 and 15 years in prison respectively for the crime of espionage.

In 2013 Alarcón was relieved of his position as president of the National Assembly. Although the case of his adviser did not come out in the official press, but in the well-informed sectors of Miami it was commented that his departure was linked to the arrest of Álvarez who died of cancer in November 2020.

The most intense memory that Cubans have of Alarcón is that of his debate with the then student at the University of Informatics Sciences Eliécer Ávila in 2008. The young man asked Alarcón why the people of Cuba did not have the ability to travel to different places of the world due to the travel restrictions imposed on the Island.

The president of the National Assembly responded that if everyone wanted to travel there would be a huge congestion in the air, a response that fueled an avalanche of jokes and criticism.

Since his departure from the National Assembly, and especially in the last five years, Alarcón had been removed from the official spotlight and was barely mentioned publicly.


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