Fidel Castro’s Eldest Son Commits Suicide, Cuban Media Says

MEXICO CITY — Fidel Ángel Castro Díaz-Balart, a nuclear physicist who was the oldest son of former Cuban President Fidel Castro, died on Thursday, Cuban state media reported. He was 68.

Mr. Castro Díaz-Balart, who had been treated for a deep depression for several months, committed suicide, according to a report in the newspaper Granma. He had been undergoing outpatient treatment after being hospitalized.

Bearing a close resemblance to his father, Mr. Castro Díaz-Balart, known as Fidelito, was the only son of the president and his first wife, Mirta Díaz-Balart.

At the time of his death, he was a science adviser to Cuba’s Council of State and vice president of the Academy of Sciences of Cuba.

Mr. Castro Díaz-Balart played a prominent role in efforts to develop nuclear energy on the island. He was the executive secretary of Cuba’s Atomic Energy Commission from 1980 to 1992 and was in charge of a project to build a nuclear power plant at Juraguá.

Construction on the plant was suspended in 1992, though, as funding dried up with the collapse of the Soviet Union. By 2000, the project was abandoned.

Mr. Castro Díaz-Balart remained a champion of nuclear energy, making the case for its growth in developing countries in a 2002 essay in the International Atomic Energy Agency Bulletin. “Widespread understanding is the key to popular acceptance,” he wrote.

Mr. Castro Díaz-Balart once told an interviewer that he never had political ambitions. “All my career has been as a scientist,” he said in a 2013 television interview with the Russian government-funded station RT.

But Mr. Castro Díaz-Balart said his generation of the family was not pushed into politics, either. “The Castro family, as all families, is not one body, one person. It is a conglomerate of different people with different visions and different pasts,” he said in the interview.

His father, Fidel, died over a year ago, in November 2016, at age 90. Cousins on his mother’s side include Representative Mario Díaz-Balart and former Representative Lincoln Díaz-Balart, Florida Republicans and staunch anti-communists.

Mr. Castro Díaz-Balart’s early childhood was marked by a bitter custody battle between his parents, who divorced in 1955 when he was 6.

The year after, when both of Mr. Castro Díaz-Balart’s parents were in Mexico, his father arranged for his son to visit him for two weeks. At the end of the visit, Mr. Castro placed Fidelito with a friend, and sailed to Cuba with fellow rebels on the yacht Granma to begin his guerrilla campaign against the government.

To reclaim her son, Ms. Díaz-Balart, with the help of her family and the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City, hired professional kidnappers who ambushed the boy and his guardians in a park. Reunited with her son, she took him to New York for a year. But after Mr. Castro came to power in 1959, he persuaded his former wife to send their son back to Cuba.

His father’s role on the world stage was an important factor throughout Mr. Castro Díaz-Balart’s life, even as he stayed out of the spotlight himself. In a second interview with RT, also in 2013, Mr. Castro Díaz-Balart said when he had studied in the Soviet Union he used an assumed name and that few people knew who he was.

As an adolescent, he said, he had little contact with his father. “It is no secret that in the years of my adolescence and youth, Cuba was going through a very difficult situation,” he said, referring to the era that included the American-backed Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban missile crisis.


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