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Fidel Castro's Death

Fidel Castro Death: Family Torn Apart by Dysfunction, Affairs

Fidel Castro, Cuba's longtime former leader, dies at 90 5:14

HAVANA — Fidel Castro's rule of nearly five decades split many a Cuban family between exile and solidarity with the communist revolution — including his own.

While brother Raul was his closest confidant and successor as president, sister Juana, exiled in south Florida, called Fidel a "monster" to whom she hadn't spoken in more than four decades.

Image: Fidel Castro and Raul Castro in 2011
Fidel Castro (left) and his brother Raul Castro (right) in 2011. ALEJANDRO ERNESTO / EPA

Eldest son Fidelito, long Castro's only officially recognized child, was a nuclear scientist in Cuba. Eldest daughter Alina Fernandez, born from an affair with a married socialite who remained on the island decades later, blasted dad on exile radio from Miami.

The sprawling Castro clan, made larger by Fidel's early extramarital affairs, also suffered from the same sorts of dysfunction and disagreements afflicting so many other families: siblings who don't speak, adults resentful over childhood slights and murky talk of babies born out of wedlock.

Related: Fidel Castro Dead at 90

During Castro's long illness, the tightly wrapped secrecy about his family started unraveling as his youngest sons and their mother, Dalia Soto del Valle, rallied around him.

Soto del Valle, a blonde, green-eyed former schoolteacher Castro met during Cuba's literacy campaigns in the 1960s, was his life's most enduring relationship. She was rarely seen in public and never alongside the "maximum leader" while he was in power.

Image: Cristina Fernandez, Fidel Castro, Dalia Soto del Valle
Argentina's then-President Cristina Fernandez, left, talks with Fidel Castro, right, and Fidel's wife Dalia Soto del Valle during a private meeting in Havana on Jan. 26, 2014. Handout, Argentina's Press Office / via AP

Together more than four decades, the couple had five sons, now middle-aged. Castro, who took the nom de guerre Alejandro during the revolution, continued his homage to Alexander the Great when naming them: Alexis, Alejandro, Angelito, Alexander and Antonio.

None were involved in politics. The best known is Antonio, or Tony. An orthopedic surgeon and former official doctor for the island's national baseball team, he later became vice president of both the Cuban Baseball Federation and the Swiss-based International Baseball Federation.

For decades their identities and their mother's were state secrets known only to a small circle of loyalists.

PHOTOS: Scenes From the Life of Cuban Leader Fidel Castro

So private was Castro about his family life, his marital status with Soto del Valle was unknown in a country where common-law unions are as ubiquitous as legal ones. Some reports said they married in a quiet civil ceremony in 1980.

News correspondents on the island had heard whispers about "la mujer del comandante" — the comandante's woman — but didn't get their first glimpse of her until early 2000 when she joined a huge rally calling for the return of Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban boy rescued from an inner tube off South Florida. Soto del Valle also made a rare public appearance the following year at the Tropicana nightclub during Cuba's annual international cigar festival.

Image: Fidel Castro in 2007
Cuban President Fidel Castro gestures while attending a meeting in front of the United States Interests Office in Havana in 2007. ADALBERTO ROQUE / AFP - Getty Images, file

But she wasn't seen publicly alongside Castro until the summer of 2010, when he made a series of appearances after a four-year absence, including his first address to the National Assembly since falling ill.

There were also dividing lines in the family tracing back to a custody battle over Fidelito even before Castro toppled Fulgencio Batista in 1959. Those divisions would only grow deeper and more bitter after the revolution, similar to the splintering in untold Cuban families with members on both sides of the Florida Straits.

Fidel's first wife, Mirta Diaz-Balart, divorced him in the mid-1950s and took Fidelito, born in 1949 as the oldest of at least nine children Castro fathered, to the United States. Castro wanted the 5-year-old kept from Mirta's family, which included her brother Rafael Diaz-Balart, an official in Batista's government. Two of Castro's nephews, Mario and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, later became Florida congressmen who personified exile opposition to his regime.

"I refuse even to think that my son may sleep a single night under the same roof sheltering my most repulsive enemies and receive on his innocent cheeks the kisses of those miserable Judases," Castro wrote his half-sister, Lidia, in 1956.

Image: Ernesto "Che" Guevara and Fidel Castro in the 1960s
Fidel Castro (right) talks with Argentine guerrilla leader Ernesto "Che" Guevara during the 1960s. ROBERTO SALAS / AFP - Getty Images, file

While in Mexico preparing for the guerrilla war, Castro persuaded Mirta to send Fidelito for a two-week visit, then refused to send him back. Later, as Castro's sisters were taking the boy for a stroll in Mexico City's Chapultepec Park, three armed men jumped from a car and grabbed him to return him to his mother.

Among his own offspring, Fidel only publicly recognized Fidelito, the angel-faced, blond boy from revolution-era photographs who today causes double-takes because he so resembles his father. As an adult he rose to the top post at Cuba's Atomic Energy Commission before his father removed him for unpublicized reasons in the early 1990s.

Alina Fernandez was born March 3, 1953, from Castro's love affair with Natalia Revuelta, a dark-haired, green-eyed beauty and cardiologist's wife who became enamored of Castro during his revolutionary struggle.

Related: 'History Will Absolve Me' and Other Castro Quotes

Fernandez left Cuba in 1993 wearing a wig and carrying a fake Spanish passport, later describing her feelings of abandonment in a book, "Castro's Daughter — An Exile's Memoir of Cuba."

"I wanted him to find a solution to all the shortages: of clothes, of meat," wrote Fernandez.

"I also wanted to ask him to give our Christmas back," she added, referring to her father's abolition of the holiday so workers could participate in the then-critical sugar harvest.

Image: Fidel Castro and Pope John Paul II in 1996
Pope John Paul II and Cuban President Fidel Castro meet at the Vatican in 1996. HANDOUT/Osservatore Romano / AFP - Getty Images

Fernandez's book created a rift even among Castro relatives in exile: Juana filed suit in Spain in 1998 arguing the book defamed her and Fidel's parents. A court ordered the publisher to pay Juana Castro $45,000.

Castro fathered at least two more children out of wedlock: Jorge Angel Castro, who remained in Cuba and fathered at least four children of his own, including triplets; and Francisca Pupo, who migrated to the United States with her husband in 1999.

Juana Castro has told of meeting Pupo after the younger woman emigrated to the United States with her husband in 1999.

Despite their differences, the Castros still living on the island were said to regularly attend weekend gatherings with outdoor meals and horseback riding hosted by Raul in his role as lead organizer of family events.

Reactions to Fidel Castro's death range from celebration to mourning 2:06