Fidel Castro’s eldest son has joined a long list of public figures who have taken their own lives in a country with one of the highest rates of suicide.
In a rare exercise of transparency, the Cuban official press on Thursday reported that Fidel Castro Díaz-Balart, 68, committed suicide after suffering from deep depression for months.
According to various versions, which el Nuevo Herald has not been able to confirm, his death occurred under circumstances that would be difficult to hide.
Rumors ranged from Castro Díaz-Balart shooting himself to jumping off the building in the Kohly neighborhood where he was receiving treatment.
Neighbors said there was a flurry of security activity around the Clinica de Seguridad Personal, a pink and buff colored military hospital in the Kohly neighborhood, on Thursday and Friday morning. But by Friday evening the neighborhood, where many military families live, was quiet. There is always tight security in Kohly with police posted on many corners.
One neighbor said Castro Díaz-Balart locked himself in a fourth-floor room at the clinic and wouldn’t let doctors enter, before throwing himself through a window and landing in front of the building not far from the Cuban flag, which remained at full staff Friday.
Another neighbor said that about two months ago, he saw Castro Díaz-Balart waiting at a bus stop in the neighborhood, and another saw him walking around Kohly.
If any of the death versions are true, it would help explain why the official press reacted so quickly to announce the suicide and share details about his depression with the population.
Reached by phone in Havana, Fidel Antonio Castro Smirnov — the son of Castro Díaz-Balart with first wife Olga Smirnova — said he would not make statements to the press and asked for “respect for the privacy of the family at this time.”
In Miami, Juanita Castro, sister of the current ruler Raúl Castro and the late Fidel Castro, said she did not know the details of her nephew’s death. Mirta Díaz-Balart, Castro Díaz-Balart’s mother and Fidel Castro’s first wife, lives in Spain but travels to the island frequently and was “on her way to Cuba and probably already there,” Juanita Castro said Friday. She said she lamented the death of her nephew but would not be attending the funeral. According to the official announcement and a statement by the Cuban Foreign Ministry, the funeral will be strictly family, not a state ceremony.
On the island, news of the suicide did not raise eyebrows.
Cuba has one of the highest rates of suicide in Latin America with 17 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the World Health Organization. According to Cuba’s most recent statistics, in 2015 there were 2,535 deaths “due to self-inflicted injuries,” the eighth cause of death that year, above diabetes and cirrhosis of the liver.