When Fidel Castro said 'If surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic event, then I would win the gold medal', he was most certainly correct. Overall, nearly 650 attempts on the Cuban dictator's life have been made, making him one of the most targeted men in the universe. And one of the luckiest. But why?
Born in Cuba in 1926, Castro began a campaign of guerrilla warfare to oust and overthrow the Cuban dictator and all round bad guy, Fulgencio Batista. With a number of rebel forces backing him, some of which included the revolutionary leader Che Guevara and Castro's own blood, younger brother Raúl, Castro was finally appointed the country's new leader in 1959. However, with change not always necessarily a good thing, Castro began fiddling with the country's political approach. Becoming known for his communist policies and relationship with the Soviet Union, Castro was automatically a concern for the once supportive and influential USA.
With the relationship excessively souring, and a number of stormy events, diplomacy between the two finally came to a halt during the explosive Cuban Missile Crisis in which Castro and the Soviet Union were dangerously treading on thin ice. Accused of provoking communist revolutions in other countries around the world, enough was enough for the CIA, with the USA conducting a number of failed assassination attempts on the Cuban dictator, who, incidentally, was much loved by his powerless nation. From former lovers to the Mafia, you can't say the Americans didn't try, with nearly 700 attempts ranging from complete madness to intricate and detailed plots. In the end, though, the Americans never did quite get their man.
But with the collapse of communism in 1991, things began to thaw, leaving a negative impact on Cuba's economy, which in turn led Castro to relax his complete ban on Western policies and relations. Handing over power to his brother Raúl in 2008 due to failing health, Castro has of late, been out of the limelight. With the US citizens now allowed to enter Cuba and a much more relaxed atmosphere between the two, Castro's fear of assassination appears to be over. Or so we are led to believe.
16 The Poisoned Milkshake
In 2006 when a British documentary tactfully named 638 Ways to Kill Castro was released, the whole world was intrigued. Detailing the number of times the CIA had tried to kill the Cuban leader, each attempt seemed more and more absurd. The film, which is mainly centered on Castro's former protector Fabian Escalante, claimed that over 600 plots were foiled with the majority being attempted by Cuban exiles that had been trained by the CIA.
15 The Temptress
Never short of a lady or two, Fidel was known to have many mistresses, with German born Marita Lorenz high on the list. Landing in Havana in 1959, the 19-year-old Marita quickly started an affair with the newly established leader. During the romance it was said that Marita had become pregnant but aborted the child in the 7th month of pregnancy, although it was also rumored that she had bore the child. Fed up with Castro's regime, Marita was quickly and subsequently recruited by the notorious James Bond-inspired secret agent, Frank Sturgis.
14 The Hypodermic Needle Pen
With President John F. Kennedy renowned for being a great fan of the Ian Fleming novels about James Bond, it is no surprise to find out that many of the attempts on Castro's life were loosely inspired on the actions of Fleming's most famous character. In fact, Kennedy was such a fan that he once invited the famous author to the White House, reportedly asking what Bond would do in such a situation.
13 The Poisoned Wetsuit
12 The Exploding Cigar
In the 2006 documentary 638 ways to kill Castro, Fabian Escalante asserted that over the years every president had notched up a number of times that they had each tried to kill Castro individually. He claimed that Eisenhower had tried to kill Castro 38 times, Kennedy a lengthy 42, Johnson took things further with 72, Nixon with a whopping 184, Carter relaxing things a little with 64, Reagan starting things up again with a massive 197, Bush Sr. a measly 16 and Clinton reining it in with 21. Obviously Escalante could be construed as being a little dramatic but there is no doubting that the CIA were serious in their threats.
11 The Poisoned Cigar
With Castro such a fan of Cuba's most famous accessory, wherever Castro went the cigar wasn't far behind. In fact, Castro himself often stated how important the cigars were to the Cuban economy, and still are, maintaining it to be one of the most important export items of the country. Putting two and two together, the CIA began to put together different methods in which the cigar could help them catch their man.
10 The Deadly Handkerchief
During the height of the Cold War the American government was starting to get desperate, which coincidentally saw the CIA clinging at straws. With Castro publicly declaring himself a Marxist-Leninist in 1961, the Kennedy administration began to massively freak out. Cuba were now becoming extremely friendly with the Soviet Union and began depending on their support as well as their actions.
9 The Mafia
In the pre-Castro days of Fulgencio Batista's glamorous and untouchable 'La Habana,' the Mafia were a huge and imposing presence, especially in the nation's capital. With notorious mobsters such as Charles 'Lucky' Luciano and Nicholas "the Fat Butcher" Di Costanzo running the show, the mob was enjoying a life of Caribbean luxury. However, things took a turn for the worse when Castro came into power and Batista fled, leaving the mob to collect their belongings and get out.
8 The Mafia (Again)
Originally born in Cuba, ex-prime minister, political activist and anti-Communist Manuel Antonio De Varona (Tony) became embroiled in a number of plots to kill and finally dispose of Castro once and for all. Again with Frank Sturgis and a number of other CIA agents, a planned counter-revolution was arranged. However the plan was foiled and never fully took off.
7 The Hair Loss Scam
Up there with the most laughable, this hair brained scheme really saw the CIA getting desperate. With the American government going for character assassination rather than killing him off, the idea was to discredit the leader in front of his millions of passionate followers. The scheme, which involved thallium (a powerful depilatory used to cause hair loss), was to have Castro's beard fall out; therefore eventually damaging his image and reputation. Sound crazy?
6 The Acid Trip
5 The Exploding Seashell
4 The Shoe Dusting Scheme
3 The Bounty Hunter
2 The Big 3
When Fidel Castro finally seized power in 1959, the USA were beginning to worry. With Castro's ever leaning toward the Soviet Union's sway and Communist policies, the Americans had decided enough was most certainly enough. However, what came next resulted in the most spectacular failure in the history of American warfare, embarrassing then president JFK and the country itself.
1 The Faked Terrorist Attacks
With the disastrous Bay of Pigs behind him, JFK seemingly continued with his fight for Castro's head. In 1961, 'Operation Mongoose' was designed, which saw not only the CIA but the defense department, the state department, and Kennedy's own family all dipping their fingers in the pie. The operation itself included a range of ideas- all of which had the main objective to topple Fidel Castro and the Communist regime.
With rumors of faked terrorists attacks that could be blamed on Castro, and in-depth assassination operations, the contents of Operation Mongoose are still extremely murky. However, with the Cuban missile crisis reaching a deadly high in 1962, the operation was suspended, and only a year later the famous American president was dead.
Sources: wikipedia, historyofcuba, thguardian
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