he father of the Cuban revolution ruled the country for 49 years (1959 to 2008). That is almost five decades in which the United States was ruled by ten different presidents. Some people saw Castro as a fearless dictator and a communist even worst than the Soviets.
Whilst others had seen him in a better picture as a liberator and someone who believed in social equality. Castro became very well known around the world during the Cold War, especially during the Cuban Missile Crisis. As a communist, he tried to stay close to the Soviets during the Cold War, however, he never trusted anyone which is one of the reasons he was never murdered despite the numerous attempts by different parties, but mainly by the CIA.
America’s public enemy number one
Castro is considered to be the most hunted man in history, not only for his tyranny again the United States but also because of his character as a leader whom many nations (including the United States) had been described as manipulative. This man actually holds the Guinness World Record for the longest speech given to the United Nations, on the 26th of September 1960. The speech lasted for 4 hours and 29 minutes according to the UN.
This marked the beginning of the assassination attempts, with most of them being led by the CIA. Seeing that the UN had quite the interest in Castro during the Cold War made America a little unsure about the impact Castro could have on the rest of the world or at least Western Europe so he had to be eliminated.
From 1962, when the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred — when the Soviet Union engaged in a 13 day political and military standoff with the United States over the installation of nuclear missiles in Cuba in response to the United States installing nuclear missiles in Turkey — the overall hatred and negative feelings towards Castro started to rise.
The Americans saw that Communism was getting close to their homeland and even making friends from the East (the Soviet Union) wasn’t very pleasant.
The attempts got even worse after the 22nd of November 1963, when John F. Kenedy was assassinated. At the time, it was believed (and still is by some people) that Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who murdered JFK was hired by Castro or that the real assassin was an agent sent from Cuba in response to the previous assassination attempts on Castro.
Interestingly enough, on the same day that JFK was assassinated, another attempt at killing Castro took place. An agent from the CIA infiltrated Cuba and gave Castro a pen containing lethal toxins that would be injected when the pen was opened. Luckily for Castro, the pen was firstly used by one of his agents.
638 assassination attempts
This so-called anecdote was shown for the first time in 1975 by the Church Committee of the United States, previously known as the United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, regarding the CIA’s murder attempts on Castro.
However, before the assassination attempts began in the 1960s the CIA tried to ruin his reputation around the world so he would not have the support of the people around him. During the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the CIA even came up with a plan to spray a whole radio room with a substance such as LSD that would make Castro act weird whilst on a live interview.
Then what followed was the agents trying to remove his beard. In Cuba at the time when Castro became the ruler, he started a trend of beards within Cuba which he also used as a personal brand that represented him around the world. Having the beard removed would have meant losing his original brand and therefore being at risk of losing some of his support.
Many tried to spray his beard with chemicals in order to remove it, but they all failed, that is the reason why there is no photo of Castro without a beard.
Some of the assassination plans put together by the Church Committee even included the involvement of criminals from Interpol that lived in Las Vegas at the time as well as people from Cuba that were against Castro who was exiled in Miami. In 1975, Castro accused the CIA of handing senator George Mcgovern a list with 24 recorded attempts of assassination.
Some of the attempts even took place in 1979 when Castro traveled to New York to give a speech to the UN. When interviewed by a reporter he was asked if he was wearing a bulletproof vest under his shirt. Castro showed his bare skin under the shirt and responded that he wears “a moral vest”. You can watch the interview below.
Describing each and every attempt would lead to me turning this article into a short book that is why if you are interested in seeing each attempt explained you should watch a documentary from 2006 entitled 638 Ways to Kill Castro.
Just to sum up, the CIA tried everything from having people try to gun him down during his travels out of Cuba to having some of the common items used by him, including food, turned into lethal traps, and going even to the lengths of implanting mines within oysters near where Castro used to go swimming.
“If surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic event, I would win the gold medal”Fidel Castro
It is imperative to understand that all of these attempts were calculated so that a nuclear war wouldn’t be started and so that the attempt could look like an accident to the world even if the whole of Cuba knew that the CIA wanted Castro dead.
Fidel Castro’s last public appearance was on the 19th of April 2016 during the closure of the 7th Cuban Communist party congress where he gave his last speech at the age of 89. Castro managed to survive all of those assassination attempts and die of old age on the 25th of November 2016.