The 638 Times The CIA Tried To Kill Fidel
He had explosive cigar, poison capsule, radioactive shoe, lethal fungus, hallucinogenic spray
Notorious smoker, Fidel lights a cigar, which explodes in his face. The plan is almost comical – and real: the artifact was even manufactured, but never came close to the commander. Fidel also liked to dive and practice underwater hunting. The hobby inspired two more plans. One was simple: to contaminate a diver’s clothing with a lethal fungus. The other involved creating a fake mollusc, filling it with explosives and putting it in sight on a coral reef. These and other stories were told in the book 638 Ways to Kill Castro(not published in Brazil) by Fabián Escalante, who was responsible for the Cuban counter-information service and for the dictator’s personal security. All of these plans were devised by the CIA, the United States intelligence agency. As a conventional murder would bring more chances of the plot being revealed, the CIA had to develop fanciful ideas that would keep the supposed distancing from the US.
Until attacks of moral effect passed through the head of the American agents. Pollution of Fidel’s shoes with thallium, a highly radioactive chemical element, would make the beard come down, undermining the Cuban leader’s self-confidence. Or spread a hallucinogenic spray in the TV studio where he would make a statement to the nation. But none of this was carried forward.
Among the assassination attempts that have actually occurred, one of the most famous cases is that of a former lover of Fidel hired by the CIA. She should find a way to make him swallow a poison capsule. But the pills that the woman carried in her purse melted, hidden in a pot of cream on her face. The last attempt to kill Fidel occurred in 2000, during a visit to Panama. His security guards found about 90 kg of explosives under the platform where he would give a speech.
One of the explanations for so many plans of attack is the long stay of Fidel in power: 49 years, from 1959 to 2008, when his brother Raul officially assumed the government. The conspiracies began shortly after the revolution. In 1961, the American president, John Kennedy, showed great interest in the plans of the CIA to kill Fidel. In March of that year, Richard Bissell, director of Covert Operations of the agency, presented to him the idea of invading Cuba by the Bay of Pigs. In April, a brigade of 1,400 Cuban exiles landed on the island. New failure.
In November 1961, Kennedy established a committee called the Enlarged Special Group and handed over the leadership to his brother, Robert. In practice, the mission was one: to eliminate Fidel. “The CIA was so busy leading those actions that it was wrong to see in Cuba a growing threat to US security,” American journalist Tim Weiner wrote in Legado de Cinzas: A CIA History .
Mafia on the move
Determined to eliminate Fidel Castro, the agency joined until the Mafia. In 1962, gangster John Rosselli received in Miami capsules with a killer bacterium. They should be dissolved in the commander’s coffee or handkerchief. But the plan, for a change, did not work. The following year, the agency decided to recruit an ex-revolutionary to end the Cuban leader. Rolando Cubela had fought alongside Fidel in the Sierra Maestra, and at that time held a position in government. The officers promised him the weapon he wanted. Cubela chose a rifle with a telescopic sight. Only he would never receive the order.
On November 22, 1963, before the bombing was consummated, Kennedy was assassinated. His successor, Lyndon Johnson, was unaware of CIA plans. “Few knew,” Weiner said. In 1967 the FBI, the US Federal Police, handed Johnson a report confirming that the CIA had planned Fidel’s death several times and even hired the Mafia for it. The president would have commented, “Kennedy wanted to get Castro, but Castro got Kennedy first.