Fidel Castro died of natural causes after surviving over 600 assassination attempts, CNN is reporting.
The controversial Communist leader ruled Cuba under the brunt of a one-party state from 1959 to 2008. All through those years, the revolutionary leader who died aged 90, was a step ahead an avalanche of plots to kill him. At a time he had jokingly said that he deserved a gold medal for surviving all the assassination attempts made on his life.
“If surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic event I would win the gold medal.”
In an article published in Cuban-state media when he celebrated his 90th birthday in August, Castro said that his younger brother, Raul, was waiting in the wings to replace him, if he was ever assassinated. The communist leader said he “almost laughed at the Machiavellian plans of the US presidents,” on his life.
According to the former director of Cuban intelligence, Fabian Escalante, there were 638 attempts to kill Castro under different American governments: Eisenhower, 38; Kennedy 42; Johnson, 72; Nixon, 184; Carter, 64; Reagan, 197; Bush Sr, 16; and Clinton, 21.
The son of a wealthy farmer, Fidel Castro cheated death twice as a young revolutionary. Even when his counterparts were killed in their 100s and the Cuban press reported that he was dead, the socialist leader soon proved that he was a cat with nine lives when he seized power in 1959. The move forced thousands of Cubans into exile and made the island country, an ally of the Soviet Union. This development marked the beginning of the many attempts on Castro’s life.
The Mafia Hit
American mobsters wanted Castro dead because when he came to power he seized control of Cuba’s hotels and casinos which were a lucrative venture for organized crime. According to declassified CIA reports, an agent met with mobster Sam Giancana in 1960 and together they hatched a plot to kill the political leader. Giancana had waived away a fee for killing Fidel.
According to a Secret-Eyes Only CIA cable released in 2007 as part of a Freedom of Information Act request, Giancana had suggested a more subtle death of poisoning the Cuba’s number one citizen rather than the usual methods that the mafia was notorious for using.
“Sam suggested they not resort to firearms, but if he could be furnished with some type of potent pill, that could be placed in Castro’s food or drink.”
A pack of cyanide pills were sent to the former Hilton Hotel in Havana that the Cuban leader frequented. According to CIA documents, the hotel served chocolate milkshakes that Fidel loved and a Juan Orta had been planted at the hotel as a waiter to administer the poison.
Escalante, who had guarded the socialist politician for years, said Orta in a mix of urgency and nervousness to poison Castro mistakenly broke the capsule after it got stuck in the freezer.
“They ordered a chocolate milkshake, and in the rush and nervousness brought on by the moment for which he had prepared himself for over a year, he broke the capsule of poison while trying to pick it up, as it had stuck to the shelf of the freezer in which it was hidden…that moment was the closest the CIA got to assassinating Fidel.”
Sleeping With The Enemy
The CIA again tried to dole out death by the pill after recruiting Marita Lorenz, a mistress of Castro. Lorenz in a 1993 memoir, Marita: One Woman’s Extraordinary Tale of Love and Espionage from Castro to Kennedy said she was recruited after visiting the United States and was sent back into her lover’s arms with a batch of poison pills. The plan was for her to slip a poisoned pill inside his drink and leave immediately. Lorenz was nervous about the pills being discovered at Cuban customs and dropped them inside her cream.
She said when she returned to Havana, the pills had dissolved in the jar of face cream that she hid them. According to Marita, to make matters even worse, her lover was aware of the plot to kill him. Castro allegedly handed over a gun to Marita to kill him instead, closing his eyes and smoking a cigar. Lorenz said instead of killing him, they made love.
“I thought he was going to shoot me, but he gave me the gun and asked, ‘Did you come to kill me?’ Then he took a puff on his cigar and closed his eyes. He made himself vulnerable because he knew I couldn’t do it. He still loved me and I still loved him.”
The CIA besides trying to assassinate Castro also tried to discredit his government on a number of occasions.
In 1960, there was a plot by the CIA to put thallium salts in his shoes and make his beard fall off while delivering a speech at the United Nations in New York. The covert agency also planned to taint his box of cigars with LSD in order to make him lose composure and embarrass him during a televised interview.
The CIA tried to also leverage on Castro’s love for the sea. They tried to contaminate his dive suit with tuberculosis bacteria and tried to plant explosives conch shells at his favorite underwater destination. There was also an attempt in 1963 to jab him with a syringe containing venom disguised as a ballpoint pen.
In the end, it was his failing health that killed him. During his later years, Castro had stopped smoking his Cuban cigars and was strictly on a vegetarian diet. In 2006, he had a stint of medical operations over an intestinal complaint.
This forced him to cede power to his younger brother, Raul, in 2008.
Fidel Castro defied the death traps the American government set for him, spanning 50 years. It is ironic that he eventually died of health-related issues.
[Featured Image by AP Images]