The communist government of Cuba announced late Thursday that Fidel Castro’s eldest confirmed son, Fidel Ángel Castro Díaz-Balart, has died of a “suicide” after battling “a deep depressive state.” He was 68.
In a brief statement, the Cuban government alleged that Castro Díaz-Balart “had been under the care of a group of doctors for some months due to a deep depressive state.”
“As part of his treatment, he initially required a regimen of hospitalization and was later followed on an outpatient basis during his social reintegration,” the notice added.
The Cuban-American news agency Martí Noticias noted that the statement from Havana did not provide any details regarding Castro Díaz-Balart’s method of suicide or the discovery that he had died. The agency cited unnamed sources who had claimed to Martí in the past that “Castro-Díaz Balart had made a suicide attempt with a gun three months ago” and also claimed that he “jumped off a high floor of the Personal Security Clinic” in Havana where he was being treated. No other outlets appear to have confirmed this information at press time, however.
Díaz-Balart, the cousin of Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, former Rep. Lincoln Díaz-Balart, and NBC/Telemundo anchor José Díaz-Balart, was not actively involved in Cuban politics. A scientist by trade, at the time of his death, he was the vice president of Cuba’s Academy of Sciences and top-ranking scientist for the State Council. The son of Fidel Castro’s only wife, Mirta Díaz-Balart, his father kidnapped the younger Díaz-Balart at an early age as his mother fled the Cuban Revolution to Madrid. He was raised without his mother – who spent decades in Madrid trying to hide her past relationship to Castro – and with minimal attention from his dictator father until being sent to study in the Soviet Union.
While the Cuban government generally refers to “Fidelito” as Castro’s oldest son, a man by the name of Jorge Ángel López has also made the claim to being the oldest, according to Spanish newspaper El Mundo.
Throughout his career as a nuclear physicist, Díaz-Balart led efforts by the communist government to develop nuclear energy and represented Cuba before the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Despite what has been called a “miserable” childhood, Díaz-Balart never publicly criticized his father. For his troubles, he enjoyed the family’s vast wealth and was notably present at lavish parties with Paris Hilton and Naomi Campbell.
Fidel Castro had nine known children, however, creating significant turmoil regarding his estimated $900 million net worth at the time of his death. Despite the fact that, by the time of the elder Castro’s death, his life partner, Dalia Soto del Valle, had largely ostracized Castro’s children with other women to benefit her five children, the Spanish newspaper El Mundo predicted that “among the most benefitted by the inheritance would be ‘Fidelito.'”
Yet Soto’s five sons – Alexis, Alexander, Antonio, Alejandro, y Ángel – were front and center during funeral ceremonies for the dictator in late 2016. At least one of Fidel’s children, Alina Fernández, is a Cuban dissident and has dedicated much of her career to opposing the dictatorship, hence her absence.
The Miami-based outlet America TeVe suggested at the time that “Fidelito” had “a bad relationship with Dalia” that pushed him away from the center of power.
Fidelito’s death comes just two months before dictator Raúl Castro claims he will step down from power. Castro initially claimed he would abscond the top spot in February, but he then moved the date up late last year “due to the grave effects caused by Hurricane Irma.”
The “election” – from which all opposition elements have already been removed – is scheduled for April 19, the anniversary of the mass murder of Cuban exiles triggered by President John F. Kennedy’s policy of betrayal at Bay of Pigs.
Any of Fidel’s sons who wish to take their uncle’s place will have to contend with Raúl’s own stable of heirs: Raúl Jr., and Alejandro, Debora, Mariela, and Nilsa Castro Espín.
Alejandro Castro Espín, once considered a frontrunner, has been disqualified from the race. The Miami Herald notes the sudden appointment of Mariela Castro Espín to the Cuban National Assembly, however, which suddenly makes her eligible. Mariela Castro Espín has made her name as an LGBT rights advocate for a regime that systematically removed LGBT people from society and locked them in concentration camps.
Observers have not identified any of the Castros as likely heirs to the presidency, however. Current Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel remains the frontrunner in the “race.” He has expressed a desire to keep the Castro family in power and openly stated that his government is “taking all steps to discredit” the opposition, as allowing them to compete in an election fairly would “be a way to legitimize the ‘counter-revolution’ within [their] civil society.”
Even after Raúl Castro steps down as “president,” he remains the head of the Cuban Communist Party and, thus, the true leader of the nation.