Fidel Castro was one of the most loved and hated world leaders, and according to recent revelations, the United States CIA really had it in for him.
Fidel Castro died Friday at the age of 90, and it’s a miracle that he lived as long as he did. The United States government attempted to assassinate the Cuban communist leader 638 times – so many, in fact, that a former director of Cuban intelligence could break them down by administration: Eisenhower had 38 attempts, Kennedy 42, Johnson 72, Nixon 184, Carter 64, Regan 197, Bush Senior 16, and Clinton 21.
These attempts were all covered in a British documentary entitled 638 Ways to Kill Castro, none of which obviously worked.
A good portion of the attempts were cartoonish, as though they should have had Acme stamped on them, though some can’t be verified, such as the attempt on Castro’s life by way of exploding cigar.
Others have been hinted at in declassified documents and in the British documentary, including a plot that involved the CIA teaming up with the mafia to poison Castro’s milkshake. Another, an ex-mistress of Castro was supposed to slip him poisonous pills, but instead she dissolved them in face lotion after getting cold feet. Castro apparently knew of that plot, and instead seduced her – he handed her his pistol. “He didn’t even flinch. He was so sure of me. We made love,” she reported to Vanity Fair in 1993.
Here are some of the more interesting attempts by the CIA to kill Castro:
- Exploding conch shell
- Poisoning Castro’s dive suit with a fungus to create a fatal skin disease
- Deadly syringe disguised as a ballpoint pen
- Drugged cigars to make Castro look stupid during a speech
- Thallium salt in the shoes to make Castro’s beard fall out
The last documented attempt on Castro’s life was in 2000, an attempt that saw 90 kilograms of explosives underneath a podium in Panama where he was set to give a speech. And they would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for that meddling security team.
Castro once even said, according to the documentary, “If surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic event, I would win the gold medal.” He chalked the fact that he was still alive on a whim of fate, and thought the attempts on his life were almost laughable.
It wasn’t the CIA that got him in the end – instead, it was Castro’s own health that forced him to give power over to Raul Castro in 2008 as a result of his increasing frailty.
We’re pretty surprised that exploding conch shells or the ballpoint pen trick didn’t work, though. That was pretty inspired.