By Carlos Alvarez (Confidencial / theclinic.cl)
HAVANA TIMES — The son has died and people are reminiscing about the father. Or, they are finishing him off, in the same way. Many Cubans celebrate or pay no attention to the news as if it were something more than a nuclear physicist’s death who didn’t seem to ever harbor any intention to be anything other than what he was, a prominent scientist, not the heir apparent to a regime or the direct owner of a country. A battle which, if he intended to fight it, already seemed to have been decided in advance in favor of some of his half-brothers and cousins.
The deeds didn’t seem to belong to him. As soon as he dropped dead, people started talking about the other Fidel’s death. “Long live Fidel Castro Ruz!” someone elatedly wrote on the comments section of the government’s Cubadebate website, as if we were back in November 2016, after it was announced that Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart, the Cuban leader’s first son and namesake, had committed suicide on the morning of Thursday February 1st, we still don’t know how.
Castro Diaz-Balart doesn’t hold (as far as we know) great responsibility for Cuba’s ills, at least not any more than any other Cuban who hasn’t decided to set themselves on fire wrapped in a Cuban flag and sacrifice themselves tragically in front of Jose Marti’s statue in Revolution Square.
An extra piece of unofficial information has come to light, a dramatic scene, where Fidelito (already 68 years old but always “Fidelito”, an old man already but always the diminutive of his father) threw himself off the top floor of the Personal Security Clinic in Havana’s Kohly neighborhood, without the guards being able to stop him, three months after he tried to take his own life with a gun.
Government-controlled media tell us that he suffered from severe depression, in a country where the press never tells us anything and where we aren’t allowed to feel anything other than a raging optimism for the future or excessive gratitude for the lives we live.
An exceptionally strange country, all in all, where important Caribbean folklore combines with the programmatic enthusiasm of Communism, a beam of happiness and vigor which increases in the tropical nights. Meanwhile, we continue to foster the highest suicide rate in Latin America, by hanging or taking overdoses, jumping into the abyss, blowing out our brains, depositing our broken bodies in the sea’s bed.
The suicide of Fidel Castro’s eldest son opens up many important subjects. The most obvious: one might come to think that his depression is Cuba’s own depression, for example, that this is another irrevocable sign of change in this era. In this case, if we, the Cuban people, have been anyone over the past sixty years, if we have played a role fully, it’s been the role of Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart.
His surnames encapsulate the bloody battleground between the regime that Fidel Castro overthrew and the regime he imposed, and between the regime that Fidel Castro imposed and the exile community who then tried to overthrow him, albeit unsuccessfully. His mother, Mirta Diaz-Balart, who was later in exile in Madrid, belonged to Havana’s gentry during the Batista dictatorship. Fidelito had uncles who were congressmen in Havana, recognized grandparents and cousins who were Republican congressmen in Washington.
In 1959, Edward R. Murrow interviewed Fidel Castro and Fidelito appeared on camera (See below). It’s an interview that has been shown in Cuba lots of times and it is shocking in that it proves that Fidel once had a young son who wore pajamas, who sat on a sofa, etc. He kisses his son and his son snuggles next to him holding a dog in his hands. Murrow asks him how many dogs there are in the house in English and Fidelito answers “two”.
He is just a 10-year-old boy, like any other 10-year-old boy. He sits quietly and waits for another question. Absolutely nothing suggests that he would commit suicide many years later. Back then, he didn’t even look too much like his father. He would later become the lessened version of his father, but at that time, he just had droopy eyelids, the half-mast stare he always had, a dull and trivial appearance which also expressed, if you wish, intelligence, the power of boredom.
Then, several years passed and this child who spoke English and said he had two dogs went to study in the Soviet Union using the pseudonym “Jose Raul”. Both Cuban State Security forces and the KGB guarded him as he went on to graduate from Lomonosov University, in Moscow, with a degree in Nuclear Engineering.
He became a member of the Russian Kurchatov Institute, specializing in nuclear power. He studied more degrees: a Masters in Physics, a PhD in Physical and Mathematical Sciences and a PhD in Science.
He married a Russian, Olga Smirnova, and they had three children, one of whom would receive his pseudonym “Jose Raul”.
In Cuba, in the ‘80s, Fidelito oversaw the building project for the Juragua nuclear plant, and word has it his management was a complete disaster, embezzlement, corruption, misappropriation of funds, although the plant’s entire construction, which was left unfinished after the USSR collapsed, would be an even greater disaster, after over a billion dollars had been invested in the southernmost part of Cienfuegos province.
He held government positions, he signed agreements with other countries in Cuba’s name, and he joined different academies and organizations. He led institutions and was then removed, like in 1992, when national press announced that Fidelito would no longer continue at the head of the Ministry of Nuclear Affairs, and in reality this meant (if we look back in hindsight), that neither Fidelito nor anyone else would hold this position again because in 1992, Cuba was a country that was dying of hunger, and any country that is dying of hunger doesn’t have any nuclear affairs to deal with. However, Fidel Castro appeared a month later and said that his son was “incompetent in performing his duties.” His son/instrument, his son as a piece in a political game of the man in power who he calls himself “fair”.
With the Agrarian Reform Act, Fidel had already expropriated God knows how much land from his father Angel Castro (in Biran, Holguin) and later converted all of Cuba into Biran. Similarly, sometime after his falling from grace, Fidelito once again held office and positions in ministries and scientific faculties and traveled the world again.
He went to Spain, Turkey, Yemen, Egypt. He strengthened bilateral agreements in the scientific field. He published dissertations and books, he received an honorary degree from Moscow State University and, the most fascinating and ironic thing is, just three years ago, in February 2015, Fidelito appeared in a selfie with Paris Hilton in Havana. A resounding selfie, Hilton holding an iPhone, the picture that needs to be framed, the picture of the end of everything.
Also accompanied by Naomi Campbell, at one of the annual Havana Cigar Festivals, this man was already lost in or about to embark on a journey of severe depression. “It’s no secret that my teenage and early manhood years in Cuba were very difficult (…), without a doubt, both him and other main leaders of the Revolution had very little contact. They didn’t have the chance a normal human being has of just arriving home,” Fidelito said about his father, which led to him spending more time with his uncle during that time.
In one of the photos that has started doing the rounds again after his suicide, Fidel Castro, Raul Castro and Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart actually appear in a window. Fidel still doesn’t have a beard yet. It isn’t 1959. Fidel is looking somewhere. Raul is carrying his nephew in his arms and his nephew is also looking out and smiling. Raul is the only one who isn’t looking away. Years have passed by and now Fidel Castro isn’t here anymore, Raul is 86 years old and can’t hold anyone, he can barely hold himself up, and there is a strange tweet recently where Fidelito’s cousin Mariela Castro suggests that Fidelito probably couldn’t endure his father’s death. So only Fidelito and the window are left, and there he is, will he jump or not? Will he throw himself into the abyss or not? Finally, he jumped.