HAVANA – Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart, the first-born son of former Cuban president Fidel Castro, died on Thursday in Havana at the age of 68, apparently by committing suicide, the island’s state television announced.
Castro Diaz-Balart, the only son born from Fidel Castro’s first marriage to Mirta Diaz-Balart, who was popularly known as “Fidelito” on the island, had been in a “deep depressive state” for several months, according to the same source.
Born on Sept. 1, 1949, Castro Diaz-Balart became a nuclear physicist and was scientific advisor to the Council of State of Cuba, the island’s highest governing body, and vice-president of the Caribbean country’s Academy of Sciences.
The official announcement on his death was made through a state television program Mesa Redonda (Round Table) and subsequently via other state media such as the Cubadebate website.
The first-born of the leader of the Cuban revolution “made an attempt on his own life on the morning of this February 1,” the official statement reads, adding that Castro Diaz-Balart had been “treated by a group of doctors for several months for his deep depressive state.”
“As part of his treatment, he initially needed to be hospitalized and then followed up as outpatient during his social reintegration,” the statement continues, adding that “during his professional activity, dedicated entirely to the sciences, he obtained relevant national and international awards.”
Funerals will be organized “by family decision,” the note concluded.
Among the last times he was seen in public were funerals for his father’s death in November 2016, and the induction of the Nobel Chemistry Prize laureate, the American Peter Agre, as a member of the Academy of Sciences of Cuba, in August 2017 in Havana.
In addition to heading Cuba’s nuclear policy between 1980 and 1992, Castro Diaz-Balart was also in charge of the unfinished construction of the Jaragua nuclear power plant in the center-southern city of Cienfuegos, which would have been the first facility of its kind on the island.
After his parents divorced in 1954, “Fidelito” lived until he was ten years old with his mother, who remarried the lawyer Emilio Nunez Blanco and settled in Madrid in the 1970s.
He began his first studies in Cuba and later moved to the now defunct Soviet Union, where he received his Ph.D. in Mathematical Physics from the I.V. Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy in Moscow. In 1974 he also graduated with summa cum laude in Nuclear Physics from the Lomonosov Moscow State University.
He subsequently furthered his studies in Cuba, Spain and again in the USSR.
In addition to leading the Cuban nuclear policy, Castro Diaz-Balart represented his country before the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) between 1983 and 1992 and chaired the group of Non-Aligned Coordinating Countries on peaceful uses of nuclear energy (1983-87).
On June 17, 1992, the state newspaper Granma announced his dismissal as the head of the Secretariat for Nuclear Affairs, a decision which Fidel Castro said occurred “because of the inefficiency in the performance of his duties.”
Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart traveled abroad frequently and in recent years he was in Kazakhstan (2015), where he visited centers of technological and scientific development, and in Moscow (2016), to attend the World Conference of the International Association of Technology Parks.
He was also the author of numerous articles in his specialty, such as “Elements and reflections on the National Scientific Policy” (1985); the essay “Nuclear energy in the national economy of the Republic of Cuba” (1986); “Nuclear energy and development” (1990), or “The great challenge of the Third Millennium: Nuclear energy: environmental danger or solution for the future” (1997).
He also participated in international research on nuclear energy and in 2013 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Moscow State University, where he had specialized in Nuclear Physics during his youth under a false name, Jose Raul Fernandez, for security reasons.
Because of the Castro family’s tradition of keeping family intimacy out of the public spotlight, there is little information about their personal lives.
He was married to the Russian Natasha Smirnova, with whom he had three children (Mirta Maria, Fidel Antonio and Jose Raul) and after divorcing his first wife, he married the Cuban Maria Victoria Barreiro.