Exploding Seashells, Tuberculosis-Laced Diving Suits: 12 Bizarre Ways The CIA Tried To Kill Fidel Castro
With the recent warming of relations between the United States, it’s easy to forget that the two nations despised each other for decades. In December 2014, President Obama began a completely new relationship with the Cuban dictatorship. The rocky relationship has thawed so much since the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis that Obama is visiting Cuba on March 21, the first by an American president in 88 years. But back during the height of the hostilities between the two countries, the CIA desperately wanted Fidel Castro out as the Cuban Prime Minister, and were willing to assassinate him by any means possible.
There were alleged to be over 600 assassination attempts on El Jefe Maximo – The Supreme Leader, the covert operations were called “The Cuban Project” and “Operation Mongoose.” According to Fabian Escalante, who had the job of keeping Fidel Castro alive, there were exactly 638 attempts on Castro’s life. Escalante, who was the former head of the Cuban Secret Service, breaks down the murder attempts as such: the Eisenhower administration tried to kill Castro 38 times; Kennedy, 42; Johnson, 72; Nixon, 184; Carter, 64; Reagan, 197; Bush Sr., 16; Clinton, 21. We will examine 12 very unorthodox and brazen methods that the Central Intelligence Agency attempted to kill Castro.
1. Femme Fatale – Marita Lorenz, was a German-born American woman who arrived in Havana with her father in February of 1959, weeks after the conclusion of the Cuban Revolution, on board of the MS Berlin. Castro and his men visited the ship and the Máximo Líder became quite smitten with the 19-year-old girl. She stayed in Havana, and became one of Fidel’s many mistresses. After a few months, she became pregnant by Castro and was allegedly forced to get an abortion in the 6th month of pregnancy.
She left Cuba and joined an anti-Castro activist group in Florida. That is where she testified that a CIA agent named Francisco Fiorini recruited her to kill Castro. She was given poison pills that she was instructed to put in Castro’s food. In January 1960, she didn’t poison the Communist leader, and instead told Castro about the dubious plot, because she apparently still loved him. Castro allegedly gave her a gun and told her to kill him, but once again she could not pull the trigger.
2. Poisoned Wetsuit – If you’ve seen the movie Bridge of Spies, you are familiar with Tom Hanks’ character lawyer James Donovan. Well, he too was involved with an assassination attempt on El Comandante. The National Security Archive recently posted a new story detailing a murder plot of the Cuban dictator.
After the Cuban missile crisis in October of 1962, Donovan began secret negotiations with Castro from orders by Attorney General Robert Kennedy. He was to negotiate the release of over 1,100 prisoners that were held by Cuba after the botched Bay of Pigs Invasion by CIA-sponsored paramilitary group Brigade 2506 on April 17, 1961.
Donovan was meeting with Castro in person in April of 1963. Knowing Fidel was a huge diving enthusiast, Donovan, who also loved diving, was giving a wetsuit to Castro. Reportedly, the CIA saw this as an opportunity to knock off Castro and devised a scheme to contaminate the diving suit with Madura foot fungus and tuberculosis bacteria. The murderous plot never happened after Donovan’s CIA handler, Milan Miskovsky, told Donovan to secure the wetsuit and not let anyone tamper with it, especially the “executive action” side of the CIA.
The CIA never got the chance to contaminate Castro’s diving suit with TB, but Donovan did get to go diving with Castro.