"The commander-in-chief of the Cuban revolution died at 10.29 pm tonight." With those words , Fidel Castro, an icon for Cuba and Latin America - someone who polarised and galvanised in equal measures, passed away. His death, at the age of 90, was announced on Cuban state television by his younger brother Raul Castro, who had taken o ver the reigns of the Cuban presidency in 2006.
Castro's legacy - in all its greyscale glory - has especially impacted geopolitics vis-a-vis the USA, even as the fiery revolutionary defied Uncle Sam at its very doorstep. In fact, Castro defied death itself multiple times over the years, with multiple assassination attempt s prov ing futile. There have been over 600 attempts on his life, according to many reports. M any of these read like James Bond-on-steroids plot s . There's also a British Channel 4 documentary film by Dollan Cannell, broadcast in the United Kingdom on 28 November, 2006, titled 638 Ways to Kill Castro - the film traces some of the many attempts of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to kill Castro.
A lot of the documented attempts on Castro's life are corroborated by various officials, while some aren't. But officials don't dispute the claims outright either, leading many to believe that Castro was arguably modern world politics' most shrewdly trained products yet, with an exceptional survival instinct to boot. Here's a look at some of the ways that Castro survived assassination attempts and cheated death.
1 Poisoning Castro's diving suit
In 1975, the Senate Intelligence Committee claim ed it had evidence of a plan to gift Castro a diving suit lined with bacteria capable of giving him a serious skin disease. However, the plan fell through when American lawyer James B. Donovan - who was supposed to present the suit to him during negotiations o ver the Bay of Pigs ' prisoners, gave Castro some other suit instead after he changed his mind.
2 Exploding Cigar
Equal parts insidious and grotesque, the plan was to simply stuff a cigar with explosives potent enough to blow Castro to smithereens. According to an old Saturday Evening Post report, a New York City cop was tasked with the job. The CIA apparently also got a double agent on board who was supposed to slip a toxin called botulin into Castro's cigar. The agent and the cop both backed out at the last minute.
3 Burn the Beard
If you can't kill 'em, embarrass 'em to death. Or so the CIA thought, at least if records are to be believed. Going by a 1975 Senate Intelligence Committee report, the US thought that attacking Castro's facial hair is akin to making a dent in his cult personality. The plan? Use a chemical - thallium salt, either in his shoes or cigars. The chemical would get absorbed into the body and cause his beard to fall off!
4 Getting Castro High
Another bizarre attempt to embarrass him to death was, believe it or not, to get him to consume LSD during the live broadcast of a radio show. The objective was to get Castro to hallucinate so he loses his bearings live on radio, hopefully making people not trust him. This definitely sounds like the worst plan ever to cause any harm to someone you're trying to assassinate.
5 The deadly 'kerchief
Another attempt by the CIA involve d lacing Castro with chemicals. This time, it was a deadly germ-covered handkerchief meant to make him seriously ill. Again, in all likelihood, the handkerchief didn't even get delivered.
6 Spiked milkshake
This was a close call for Castro, and an actual, rational approach by the CIA to kill Castro by poisoning his milkshake - a favourite with him, in 1963. According to reports, the waiter who was assigned the task had hidden the poison pill in a freezer. When he tried to take it out to mix it with the milkshake, the capsule broke.
7 Love Kills
A film script-like attempt, this one too was as close as the CIA got to bumping off Castro. In 1993, they took into confidence the woman Castro was in love with, Marita Lorenz, while she was visiting the US. They sent her back with the poison pills but by the time she reached Havana, Lorenz found that a) the pills had dissolved in a jar of face cream where she'd hidden them, and b) Castro saw through the plan by the time she returned. The story goes that Castro asked her "Are you here to kill me?" before handing his pistol over to her in a hotel room where they were meeting. Lorenz broke down and couldn't go through with the plan.