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Fidel Castro's firstborn son commits suicide, Cuban government reports

Cuban government: 'Fidelito' lost battle with 'deep depression'

HAVANA – Fidel Castro's firstborn son, Fidel "Fidelito" Castro Diaz-Balart, a nuclear scientist who was a pioneer in the field of nanotechnology in the Communist island, committed suicide Thursday in Havana, according to the Cuban government. He was 68.

Castro Diaz-Balart had been getting treatment for depression for several months, Cuba Debate and Granma reported. He was the son of Fidel Castro's first wife Mirta Diaz-Balart y Gutierrez, who is the aunt of U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz Balart, former U.S. congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, and Jose Diaz-Balart, a television anchorman with Telemundo. 

According to his biography, Castro Diaz-Balart graduated from Lomonosov Moscow State University in Russia with a bachelor's in nuclear physics, he did research at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna and he earned a doctorate in physical-mathematical sciences from the I.V. Kurchatov Atomic Energy Institute in Moscow.

Castro Diaz-Balart lived a privileged life and was appointed to lead the scientific community on the island. He traveled around the globe regularly to attend scientific conferences and was considered an expert in nuclear energy, nanotechnology and the biopharmaceutical industry. 

He didn't succeed in all of his pursuits. While he played a pivotal role in Cuba's Atomic Energy Program from 1978 to 1992, he was involved in the Juraguá Nuclear Plant, a nuclear city in Cienfuegos that was  never completed and was abandoned after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In 1992, he was accused of embezzlement, but not officially charged. His father shunned him in public.

"He did not resign, he was sacked: Cuba is not a monarchy," Fidel Castro said adding that his firstborn son was plagued by an "incomprehensible thirst for power."

Castro-Diaz Balart was the vice president of Cuba's Academy of Sciences and the executive secretary of Cuba's atomic energy commission from 1993 to 2002. He was later involved in the creation of a new nanotechnology R&D center, which he described as an open institution that was part of an extensive network. Cuban scientists have cooperated with Russia, China and Iran.   

Castro-Diaz Balart had great hopes when former President Barack Obama moved to normalize relations with the Communist island. He told colleagues that he looked forward to cooperating with U.S. scientists in the use of pharmacological nanotechnology designs for targeted cancer treatments. 

"The normalization of relations with the United States certainly will provide grounds for improving the conditions in the research in the field of physics, because we had had a lot of problems to acquire the newest technology in the labs and to train our undergraduate and postgraduate students," Castro Diaz-Balart said during a 2016 interview with the American Physical Society

Soon after, he visited Harvard University's school of engineering and applied sciences' Center for Nanoscale Systems and the University of Pennsylvania's Singh Center for Nanotechnology. His visit to the U.S. followed an official visit to Iran, according to the Cuban government

Castro-Diaz Balart loved Japan. In 2016, he visited Tokyo Tech and participated in the Science and Technology in Society forum in Kyoto, according to Tokyo Tech News. He attended the forum again in 2017 as the head of the Caribbean delegation. While in Kazakhstan that same year, he reportedly touted Cuba's innovative technologies and renewal energy outlook for 2030.

Castro Diaz-Balart had three children with his ex-wife Russian Natalia Smirnova: Two boys, Jose Raul Castro Smirnov and Fidel Antonio Castro Smirnov, and a daughter, Mirta Maria Castro Smirnova, who had three children in Spain.  



Interviews From Havana - Nuclear Technology in Cuba from teleSUR English on Vimeo.

About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013.