Ramón Eusebio Castro Ruz (14 October 1924 – 23 February 2016) was the eldest brother of Fidel and Raúl Castro and a key figure of the Cuban Revolution.
Ramón, the eldest of the Castro brothers, the son of Angel Castro, a Spanish-born rancher, and his second wife, Lina Ruz, attended Roman Catholic schools as a boy and then studied engineering at the University of Havana and returned home to manage the family farm in Birán in rural Oriente Province. He remained there and looked after his mother–his father died in 1956–during the revolution that brought his brother Fidel to power in 1959.
"Physically, he is stunningly like his brother Fidel, an enormous, heavy-set, gruff bear of a man, with a scraggly beard, a red face, a blustery manner, a ready teasing smile and bright dancing eyes," wrote American journalist, Sally Quinn, who in 1977 was rare in being offered a unique opportunity to do an interview in Cuba. Habaneros and tourists alike would confuse Ramon for his brother Fidel, as they passed in the streets of Havana. He would declare "No, soy Mongo" using a childhood nickname that only his friends and family would know.
Although not active in the armed rebellion like his brothers, Ramón Castro aided in the revolution as the quartermaster for the troops of Fidel and Raúl, sending them weapons and supplies. He also established and maintained pipelines from the cities to the troops in the field. He also manufactured an alcohol-based fuel for Cuba during a gasoline shortage. He later said he led a network of 1,200 men: "All of them were thieves. We stole things for the war."
After the revolution, the 87.6 km2 (33.8 sq mi) family farm that employed 400 people and produced sugar cane, oranges, cattle and lumber, along with its core 26 buildings became legal property of the state. He was allowed to retain 4 km2 (1.5 sq mi). He was occasionally at odds with the new government. In November 1959, after Fidel denounced the newspaper Prensa Libre for opposing the revolution, Ramon came to the newspaper's defense. The government's official newspaper then denounced Ramon in an editorial on its front page that said he had not joined the insurgents alongside his brothers in the 1950s because of his "lack of courage and the permanent desire to make money". A year later he was attacked for his role in the Cuba Cane Growers Association, an organization that had been dissolved for its association with U.S. interests before the revolution and a lack of enthusiasm for the revolution after it succeeded. Before that season's harvest concluded, he called for raising wage rates for 200,000 laborers on private sugar cane farms to match those paid on cooperative farms.
He worked as a consultant to government ministries and founded the state-owned companies that managed the production of oranges and the transportation of sugarcane. He was one of the founders of the Communist Party of Cuba in 1965 and served as a deputy in the National Assembly, the Cuban legislature. He studied and implemented improved production techniques in sugarcane and dairy farming. In the 1990s, he helped facilitate the importation of cattle from Florida, which led to the creation of a new breed of cattle. Of his brother's fame he said: "Fidel has one ambition. I have another. His thing is political. Mine is the street. I am free, and he's in a kind of a prison." Unlike el presidente he continued to smoke cigars until the day he died.
In 2007, when Fidel was recovering from surgery, Ramon told an interviewer that he "is doing very well, protected by the socialist saints.... All of us brothers are very resilient."
He and his wife Janice had two children, Ramón Omar and Angel Castro. Castro died on 23 February 2016. His death was announced in Granma, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party. His brother, Fidel died 9 months later on 25 November 2016.