With cigar chomping Fidel Castro at the wheel, Cuba has been defying the USA for decades without ever declaring open war. Both countries have imposed sanctions and trade blockades like they were going out of style, leading to a resource-strangled Cuba and a not-very-affected-economically-but-quite-embarrassed United States. It seems the CIA decided it would be a lot easier for everyone if Fidel was dead, and have poured a lot of time and money into attempts to make it so.
As multiple attempts on the old revolutionary’s life failed, the CIA stepped up its efforts into increasingly madcap murderous schemes to free Castro from his earthly bonds. In documents which have now been declassified, bizarre assassination plots from the Kennedy administration have now been confirmed (you can even read about it on the CIA’s website). I’ve chucked a few of the more hilarious ones together for you in a nice little list, to save you the effort of proper reading.
Okay. Let’s start fairly normal (well, normal for trying to murder a world leader) and then get weird.
Various mafia hits were placed on Castro’s head by famed mobsters at the time, such as Momo Salvatore Giancana, successor to Al Capone’s criminal empire. Gangster bosses, many of whom were among America’s most wanted, were approached by the CIA with the promise of lots of money, in exchange for giving Castro a jolly good murdering. After a few half-hearted attempts, they gave up.
2. Femme Fatale
Castro was a bit of a nefarious swordsman, back in the day. One of his mistresses, Marita Lorenz, agreed to a deal with the CIA to lace his food with poison. She managed to smuggle the pills into his bedroom inside a tub of face cream, which would have been fine if the pills hadn’t dissolved in the lotion. Rather than attempt to convince Fidel that eating face cream was a fun idea, she wimped out and ‘fessed up. On learning of the plot, Castro handed her his gun and told her to shoot him. She lowered the gun, saying,
“I can’t do it, Fidel.”
Jesus Christ, that’s the sexiest thing I’ve ever heard.
3. Contaminated Cigar
In 1961, those little scamps at the CIA tried to kill Castro yet again. Tut! This time around, a cigar laced with death-inducing botulinum toxin was the weapon of choice, but the double agent charged with planting the cigar in Fidel’s cigar rack (I’m assuming he has a cigar rack) had a change of heart.
4. Poisoned Milkshake
The CIA’s milkshake brings all the boys to the yard. And then murders them. The dairy product of doom was all set to bring the pain to the communist leader, but when being retrieved from the freezer, the poison capsule froze to the inside, and the clumsy waiter-assassin spilled it everywhere while yanking it free. You just can’t get the staff these days.
5. Exploding Cigar
I can only assume at this point that the CIA had recently binge watched Tom and Jerry on Netflix and were running out of ideas. A cigar planted with enough explosives to blow Castro’s head off was given to an NYC police officer with the intent to slip it to the leader during a UN visit in 1960. It seems Fidel wasn’t in the habit of accepting mysteriously bulging cigars from perspiring strangers.
6. LSD Radio
Perhaps after taking some themselves, the CIA decided to try to lace Castro’s radio studio with hallucinogenic drug LSD, with the hope it would make him freak out live on air, losing his reputation in front of the Cuban people. They didn’t succeed, so unfortunately the world never got to hear Fidel Castro staring at his hands in wonder and singing along to Pink Floyd.
7. Public De-Bearding
Okay, so this one probably wouldn’t actually kill Castro, unless he secretly draws his strength from his beard like a modern-day communist Samson, but nonetheless the CIA attempted a character assassination of Castro by lacing his boots with thallium before a scheduled appearance on television. The idea was for Fidel’s mighty beard to fall out, leaving him looking silly and powerless. Or something. I don’t even know what’s going on anymore.
8. Exploding Shell
I’m not making this stuff up, honestly. I’m as shocked as you are. Castro was a keen diver, and so under cover of darkness, the CIA planted a brightly coloured conch in one of his favourite spots, with the aim for the snorkel clad revolutionary to pick it up, at which point it would explode into a thousand degree ball of fiery sub-aquatic death. It didn’t work.
9. Diving Suit Fungus
You can picture the scene. It’s 4am in a smoke wreathed office deep underground. Complicated maps stained with coffee rings clutter the table. Senior CIA agents are reclined in their chairs, wearily pouring over reams of paper listing failed plans. A clock ticks sullenly. A young looking agent rubs his brow, and sighs.
“Poison his diving suit?”
The others look up, bleary eyed.
“Yeah. Fuck it.”
As well as infecting his suit with tubercle bacilli, the CIA also tried lacing it with itching powder and ol’ faithful, LSD, to try to make him freak out and drown underwater.
10. Kennedy Wrestling Match
In 1962, John F Kennedy, sick of Castro’s shit, called him out on national television. Castro rose to the challenge, and the two leaders threw down in a spectacular 12 round wrestling match in the back garden of the White House. Highlights of the match included a topless, red faced JFK bizarrely calling Castro a “fucking wasteman”, despite the phrase not existing at the time; and Castro landing a powerful left hook on the jaw of Marilyn Monroe, when Kennedy leapt out of the way.
Ugh, fine. Well it could have happened, at least. Given the rest of the attempts on his life, it wouldn’t even be that surprising. The rest are all 100% true and CIA verified. With an estimated 638 attempts on the leaders life, Castro has been quoted as saying,
“”If surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic event, I would win the gold medal.”
A fair claim, although a ‘surviving assassination’ event doesn’t really leave room for runners up, anyway. It seems Castro’s days of looking over his shoulder are behind him now, with the Obama administration finally offering the olive branch to Cuba. As long as the olive branch isn’t laced with poison. Or LSD.