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Fidel Castro survived over 600 assassination attempts

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 26/11/2016 STEPHEN REX BROWN


Before old age finally took its toll, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro had survived a mob hit, poisoning at the hands of a former flame and cigars dosed with drugs.

All told, the revolutionary survived over 600 assassination attempts, Cuban officials boasted.

The U.S. government’s attempts on Castro’s life — who died Friday at the age of 90 — were so frequent that the former director of Cuban intelligence, Fabián Escalante, broke them down by administration: Eisenhower, 38; Kennedy, 42; Johnson, 72; Nixon, 184; Carter, 64; Reagan, 197; Bush Sr., 16; Clinton, 21.

Escalante spoke about the Communist leader’s resilience in the 2006 British documentary, "638 Ways to Kill Castro”

Some of the cartoonish assassination attempts cannot be verified, including the notorious CIA effort to kill Castro using an exploding cigar.

But some plots are hinted at in declassified CIA documents or by Escalanted himself.

One plot involved the CIA partnering with the mafia to eliminate the dictator in 1960. The mob had controlled hotels and casinos on the island under Cuban president Fulgencio Batista, who was ousted by Castro.

But when the moment of truth at a Havana hotel came for the CIA-approved mob hitman, he screwed up, mistakenly breaking a capsule of poison he meant to put in Castro’s chocolate milkshake, Escalante said in the documentary.

That same year a former flame of Castro’s who had been recruited by the CIA planned to slip him poison pills. But the woman, Marita Lorenz, got cold feet in a hotel bedroom in Havana — and the poison pills had dissolved in a jar of face lotion. To her surprise, Castro knew of her plans, anyway,

“Did you come here to kill me?” Castro asked her before handing her his pistol.

“He didn't even flinch. He was so sure of me. We made love,” Lorenz, wrote in Vanity Fair in 1993.

The CIA plotted ways to assassinate Fidel Castro with one of his beloved cigars. - David Hume Kennerly/David Hume Kennerly © Provided by New York Daily News The CIA plotted ways to assassinate Fidel Castro with one of his beloved cigars. - David Hume Kennerly/David Hume Kennerly

The CIA also tried to take advantage of Castro’s love of diving. Declassified documents show spies considered loading a colorful conch shell with explosives it would plant at his favorite diving destination.

The CIA even considered poisoning Castro’s divesuit with a fungus that would cause a fatal skin disease.

In 1963 the CIA passed along a syringe disguised as a ballpoint pen to a “Cuban asset.” The agency hoped the spy would be able to jab Fidel with the tiny syringe, delivering a deadly dose of venom.

Other declassified documents show a plan to dose a box of cigars with drugs that would disorient Castro, making him look stupid during a big speech. The CIA even considered a plan to dust Castro’s shoes with thallium salts, which would make his beard fall out, undermining his image, McClatchy reported in 2014.

In the end, however, it was Castro’s own failing health that did him in. In the final years of his life he’d stopped smoking cigars and stuck to a mostly-vegetarian diet. But intestinal problems and a series of medical procedures made him increasingly frail, forcing him to cede power to his younger brother and fellow revolutionary, Raul Castro in 2008.

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