Lage, 56, studied medicine at the University of Havana, earning a degree in pediatrics. He has been involved in politics since his student days, becoming head of the Federation of University Students in 1975.
He was elected to the National Assembly in 1976 and a decade later was recruited by Fidel Castro for the Council of State and the Assistance and Support Team, the strategic planning force from which he gained national attention with his Special Period reforms.
Appointed secretary of the Council of Ministers in 1990, he has served a prime ministerial function, albeit under constant guidance -- some would say intrusion -- from Castro. Although he is thought to support free and direct parliamentary elections and to advocate more private enterprise to boost services and quality of life, his few public expressions on international relations have toed the revolutionary line.
The president of the National Assembly serves as the voice of the Havana hierarchy at the annual U.N. General Assembly and on issues of international conflict.
Alarcon, 70, has made the public case for the U.S. extradition of radical anti-Castro exile Luis Posada Carriles for trial in Venezuela, on charges that he bombed a Cuban civilian airliner in 1976, as well as for the release of the Cuban Five, jailed in the U.S. since 2001 on espionage charges.
An undergraduate at the University of Havana when Fidel Castro was plotting his revolution, Alarcon served as a leader of the National Student Front, organizing high school and university students in boycotts, building takeovers and street protests. He joined the Foreign Ministry after earning his doctorate and in less than a year was heading the ministry's Latin American directorate.
In 1966, he was appointed ambassador to the U.N., a post he held until 1978.
Felipe Perez Roque
The youngest of Cuba's emerging leaders and among the least likely to stray from Castro's policies, the 42-year-old has been foreign minister since 1999, when he became the first Cabinet member who had been born after the revolution.
A student of electrical engineering at a Havana technical school, Perez Roque followed the well-trodden path to power through the Federation of University Students into the Communist Party ranks in his early 20s.
His activism caught Castro's eye, and he was submitted as a candidate for the National Assembly in 1986, earning a seat in the rubber-stamp parliament three years before being appointed Castro's personal secretary and gatekeeper.
Not known to have expressed support for loosening political or economic strictures, he has served as palace bulldog on contentious and internationally sensitive issues.
From Times Staff and Wire Reports