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Cuban Parliament to Choose New Head of Government

Cuba's parliament is set to choose a new head of government this Sunday, after ailing President Fidel Castro announced he will step down.

Mr. Castro's brother, Raul, has been acting head of state since 2006 and is widely seen as Mr. Castro's designated successor. However, there are other politicians who might be in the running.

Raul Castro, 76, is Cuba's military chief and a vice president of the Council of State. He has promoted free-enterprise farmers' markets and suggested Cuba's Communist economy could be reformed.

But like President Castro, Raul Castro's health has been questioned and he has indicated he would not govern Cuba alone. The younger Castro has said Cuba's Communist Party will remain the source of political power with or without Fidel Castro.

Carlos Lage, one of Cuba's five vice presidents, is considered the next leading candidate to become president.

Trained as a pediatrician, Lage, 56, has been a longtime member of the Communist Party and is considered the country's de facto prime minister. He helped steer Cuba through an economic crisis in the 1990s and has taken a more prominent role representing Cuba abroad.

Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque also is a possibility. In his early 40s, Perez Roque is considered by some to symbolize a generational change in Cuban leadership. However, he is considered a staunch supporter of Fidel Castro's socialist ideology, after serving as the president's chief of staff for about a decade.

Another potential candidate is Ramiro Valdes, 75, a veteran of the Cuban revolution who fought alongside Mr. Castro. Although he is believed to be Raul Castro's political rival, Valdes was named communications minister under Raul Castro's leadership in 2006.

Ricardo Alarcon, 70, is Cuba's former ambassador to the United Nations and has been president of the National Assembly since 1993. He is one of Cuba's most prominent politicians and is often interviewed by the foreign media.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.