Ivan Garcia, 6 February 2018 — A silent police patrol began to search passersby they considered suspicious. When they saw it, the illegal tomato sellers quickly hid their merchandise on the staircase of a building in Havana’s Vibora neighborhood at Acosta and Diez de Octubre. An old woman, a regular seller of the newspaper Granma who was, at that moment, walking in the other direction, continued announcing the news of the day, “Fidelito, son of the Comandante, killed.”
Those waiting at the bus stop for the P-3 began to pass on the rumors: “He hanged himself, I heard it on good faith from a friend who works at CIMEQ,” said a woman dressed as a nurse. A fat, bald man had another theory: “On Miami television they said he threw himself off the fifth floor of the clinic where he was admitted.” A tall black man in a mechanic’s overalls insisted that “he shot himself, because all of Papá’s children have a stamp (gun).”
In a ramshackle barbershop, the suicide of Fidel Castro Díaz-Balart was the perfect pretext for a discussion.
“They say in Granma that he was killed because he suffered from a depressive crisis. Just imagine it, if a guy who did not lack beef, dollars and gasoline for his car car is given a slap, what can you expect from people who every day have to jump through hoops just to put food on the table,” said a young man waiting his turn for a haircut.
The barber did not hold back, saying: “Gentlemen, happiness does not come from money or power. Maybe the man was miserable. They say that Fidel brought him to live with him as a child and separated him by force from his mother. Or maybe he killed himself because he missed his father. Who knows.”
Habaneros on the street were making up conjectures or were simply not interested in the tragedy. Rodolfo, a guy who’s nearly six feet tall, did not care about the reason “Fidelito had to leave this world. When I die, none of them will cry for me.” He ended with a blunt phrase: “Everyone who commits suicide is a fool.”
In the national medical literature, suicide, a taboo subject on the island, is called ‘Intentionally Self-Inflicted Assault’. An article published in Cubanet in July 2016, reported data from the National Directorate of Statistical Medical Registers of Health in Cuba: “In 2015 in Cuba there were 1,492 such deaths, with a rate of 13.3 [per 100,000], a slight increase compared to 2014, when there were 1,454 suicides, for a rate of 13.0.” According to statistics, Cuba has one of the highest suicide rates in the Americas and since 1969 suicide has been one of the ten leading causes of death in the country.
Perhaps people are not as happy as the regime’s propaganda suggests. Although from the beginning of the nation, Cubans have committed suicide. “Whether for religious or patriotic reasons, there have always been those who have preferred to leave the environment rather than face reality. There is also a tendency to pyromania. On a night in January 1868, the Bayamese preferred set fire to their city rather than let it fall into the hands of the Spaniards. They did the same in Guáimaro in 1869 and in Las Tunas in 1876. Some women, faced with a disappointment in love, often choose to do away with themselves. Others decide to kill their husband for his constant abuses or infidelities. Men prefer to hang themselves or throw themselves into the sea,” says Luis, an ethnologist.
For the writer Guillermo Cabrera Infante, the death of Martí in an absurd skirmish in Dos Ríos, on May 19, 1895, was a political suicide. In his opinion, the man Cubans call the ’Apostle’ was misunderstood by several Mambises chiefs. One of the most famous suicides in the Republican era was that of Eduardo Chibás, leader of the Orthodox Party, who on August 5, 1951, shot himself after he finished a speech on a weekly radio program. He died eleven days later, he was only 44 years old.
The Fidelista revolution increased the numbers of suicides for ideological reasons. The list of ’olive-green’ suicide victimes includes, among others, the commander Félix Pena (1959), Nilsa Espín, sister of Raul Castro’s wife Vilma Espín, and her husband Rafael Rivero (1965); Onelio Pino, captain of the yacht Granma (1969), Javier de Varona, close associate of Fidel Castro (1970), Eddy Suñol, vice minister of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) (1971), Alberto Mora, Minister of Foreign Trade (1972), Rafael del Pino, member of the 26th of July Movement (1977), Haydée Santamaría, Casa de las Américas Director (1980), Osvaldo Dorticós, former President of Cuba (1983), Rafael Álvarez, Finance Director of Minint (1989), Enrique Sicard, Department Head in MININT (1989), Rodrigo García, finance minister (1994) and Carlos Figueredo, colonel del MININT (2009).
That they are known, there were two failed attempts of self-elimination, that of Augusto Martínez Sánchez, Minister of Labor, in 1964, and in 1994 that of Jorge Enrique Mendoza, director of the newspaper Granma. Others died in strange circumstances, such as José Abrantes, former interior minister (1991), Manuel ’Barbarroja’ Piñeiro (1998), brothers Celia María and Abel Enrique Hart Santamaría (2008) and division general Pedro Mendiondo and his in-laws ( 2013).
The case of Fidel Castro Díaz-Balart is a psychological study. “He never led a normal existence. He lived until he was ten years old with his mother. And then Fidel ignored parental authority, which in normal conditions favors the raising of children by the mother.
“In an interview with a former bodyguard, I read that Fidel barely paid attention to his first son. I am sure that Fidelito saw him as a god. And he imitated it in his gestures and letting his beard grow. But in his childhood and youth he did not have his father’s attention, he grew up in his uncle Raúl’s house, under the pseudonym of José Raúl.
“It is true that he could travel to Spain to see his mother, Mirta Díaz-Balart, but that dramatic existence could take its toll. A depressive state can develop at any time. Fidel Castro may have the historical merits that they want to point out, but I don’t believe he was a good father,” a Havana psychiatrist pointed out.
People who knew the eldest son of Castro I, agree in describing him as a distant human being, but educated and affable. Manuel, an engineer who worked with Fidelito in the ’80s in Juraguá, says that “because of his character, he did not look like a Cuban, he did not like bachata [music] and fucking or sitting down to drink beer with friends or colleagues. He gave the impression of being shy, always seemed distracted. He knew who he was, he did not forget the weight of his surnames and I think he liked to exploit the mysticism that surrounded him. But professionally he was very well educated.”
The failure of the Cienfuegos Atomic Energy project in 1992 provoked the wrath of Fidel Castro, who ousted him from office. The Juraguá Center, with Soviet technology, was considered the signature work of 20th Century Cuba. The regime buried more than a billion dollars in its construction. That year, after the disappearance of the USSR, Castro stopped the project. Twenty-six years later, the ruins of the nuclear reactor remain standing, like a phantasmagorical relic of the Cold War.
The plague of excrement and putrefying animals is hardly mitigated by the smell of the sea that breaks over the nearby coast. The Nuclear City, the name of the town where supposedly Soviet engineers and Cuban workers would reside, is a conglomeration of crappy buildings with construction defects. People live from what falls off the back of a truck. Selling queso blanco, shrimp stolen the night before from a state company or placidly drinking homemade rum.
Richard, a welding technician, worked at the Juraguá Center and recalled that “the man (Fidelito) visited the works every day. It was even rumored that he had a house in Cienfuegos. The failure of the work was not just his fault. They were stealing hand over fist there. And there was no experience in such a complex specific construction, that’s why the pace of constructive was super slow. Luckily, they closed Juraguá. If it were working it would have been a time bomb.”
With Raúl Castro’s rising to the presidency, his nephew regained prominence, being appointed scientific adviser to the Council of State. But his political career continued in the background. Perhaps one day they will know the causes that led him to commit suicide, apparently throwing himself off a high floor of the Personal Security Clinic, located in the Kohly District, in the former Alturas de Almendares residential area.
The truth is that Fidel Castro’s eldest son grew up in a complicated environment. With a textbook narcissist for a father, more determined to go down in history than in raising his children. And with a mother living at a distance in Madrid. And maternal cousins who from Miami openly declared themselves enemies of their father and his revolution.
Despite his academic career, people only approached him for a selfie because of his resemblance to Fidel. It was never him. He was a mannequin. He was predestined to sit on a psychiatrist’s couch.
Note: The remains of the nuclear physicist Fidel Castro Díaz-Balart, 68, the eldest son of Fidel Castro, known as Fidelito, who committed suicide on Thursday, February 1, rest in the pantheon of the Cuban Academy of Sciences in the Cemetery of Columbus, in Havana. On the discreet black marble pantheon, on Monday, February 5, several wreaths were seen, mostly white roses, from his children and grandchildren, from his mother, Mirta Díaz-Balart and his sisters and nephews through his mother’s line. The wake was held at the headquarters of the Academy of Sciences of Cuba, of which he was vice president at the time of his death, according to several of the attendees who reported it on social networks.
The Cuban media, all state, did not publish anything about the wake and burial, organized privately by the family, as had been announced in the official news about the death. The only public expression from his paternal relatives came on Friday, February 2, from his cousin Mariela Castro Espín, daughter of Raúl Castro, Fidelito’s uncle. In her Twitter and Facebook accounts she thanked those who expressed sympathy.
Castro Díaz-Balart, the only son of Fidel Castro’s marriage with Mirta Díaz-Balart, also served as scientific advisor to the Council of State, Cuba’s highest governing body. (Information taken from Martí Noticias.)