From femme fatales to murderous milkshakes, the US hatched some wacky plans to assassinate Fidel Castro

To some Fidel Castro was a revolutionary hero who beat back American imperialists from the shores of Cuba.

To others a ruthless dictator who suppressed human rights and brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

But there's no doubting one clear success the late Castro achieved in his 90 years - not being killed despite an orgy of American assassination plots.

Cuba's leader Fidel Castro gestures at a speaking event in 1999. Photo / AP
Cuba's leader Fidel Castro gestures at a speaking event in 1999. Photo / AP

For the US, having a Communist dictatorship just south of Florida which, at one point, served as a launching point for nuclear missiles designed to hit American cities, was just not on. By means fair or foul, they wanted rid of him.

A 1975 investigation by the US Senate, called the Church Committee, found that between Castro's rise to power in 1959 and 1965 the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) tried to kill the Cuban leader at least eight times.

However, some claim the assassination attempts were far more numerous. Fabian Escalante, who headed up Cuba's secret service, estimated there had been a staggering 634 attempts on Castro's life.

In his book, Executive Action, Escalante lists some of the wilder plots and he claimed that up until 2000 the US was still looking at ways to bump off Castro.

In its report the Church Committee concluded, "The proposed assassination attempts ran the gamut from high powered rifles to poison pills, poison pens, deadly bacterial powders and other devices which strain the imagination."

Many of the plots came close to success but for bizarre bungles that rendered the plans useless.

At one point Castro became so blasé at the constant threats to his life, he actually gave a would-be hit woman his gun. But she didn't shoot and instead of making war, they made love.

Here are some of the most out there attempts on Castro's life.

1. The deadly scuba suit

Cuba's leader Fidel Castro stands on a sugar cane plantation in Cuba in 1966. Photo / AP
Cuba's leader Fidel Castro stands on a sugar cane plantation in Cuba in 1966. Photo / AP

Castro was a keen scuba diver who enjoyed exploring the Caribbean waters. The CIA hatched an elaborate plan whereby the Cuban president would be presented with a wet suit and scuba gear by his good friends in Washington.

Arousing no suspicion whatsoever, the suit was to be gifted to Castro following the disastrous 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco when US backed forces attempted unsuccessfully to invade the island.

Upon donning said suit, a toxic powder would poison the president.

The CIA got as far as dusting a suit with mould spores and infecting a regulator with tuberculosis.

But the plan failed because the man who was to deliver the wet suit had reportedly already given Castro another uncontaminated scuba gear.

2. The shell fish shocker

A variation on the wacky wet suit plan was to plant high explosives in a mollusc that Castro might be tempted to swim down to on one of his dives.

Much thought went into the perfect shell. It needed to be large to fit all the TNT inside and brightly coloured so Castro couldn't resist taking a peek.

It appears the plan sank without a trace.

3. The cigars of doom

In this 1960 file photo, Cuba's leader Fidel Castro, centre, holding a cigar, stands with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, center left, outside Hotel Theresa in Harlem, New York. Photo / AP
In this 1960 file photo, Cuba's leader Fidel Castro, centre, holding a cigar, stands with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, center left, outside Hotel Theresa in Harlem, New York. Photo / AP

In many an iconic image, Castro can be seen chomping on one of the cigars Cuba is so famous for. A variety of plans were concocted to either lace them with poison or even have them blow up in his face.

According to the Church Commission in 1960 a box of poisoned tobacco was produced.

"The cigars were contaminated with a botulinum toxin so potent that a person would die after putting one in his mouth."

While the box got to Cuba, they never got as far as Castro.

4. The Femme Fatale

Cuba's leader Fidel Castro, centre right, responds to a question from American NBC reporter Barbara Walters in 1975. Photo / AP
Cuba's leader Fidel Castro, centre right, responds to a question from American NBC reporter Barbara Walters in 1975. Photo / AP

A classic of the assassination genre, this failed attempt had a romantic twist that would make James Bond blush.

A former lover of Castro's, Marita Lorenz, claimed she was recruited by the CIA and, in 1959, set the mission of slipping pills containing botulism into the President's drink.

But the lover turned hit woman had made a schoolboy error. She had hidden the deadly capsules in a pot of skin cream where they dissolved.

In a Vanity Fair article Ms Lorenz opened up about her audience with Castro the night she was meant to kill him at a bedroom at the Hilton Havana hotel.

"He was chewing a cigar, and he lay down on the bed and he said, 'did you come to kill me?' Just like that. I said 'Yes. I wanted to see you'," she said.

Castro, she claimed, then leaned over and gave her his loaded gun. But she couldn't do the deed.

"He said 'You can't kill me. Nobody can kill me'. I felt deflated. He was so sure of me, he just grabbed me. We made love."

5. The poison pen

Again, the agent of death was to be a botulism toxin. But this time the method of execution was to be a ball-point pen. Inside the pen would be a hypodermic needle rigged with the toxin. So fine was the needle, Castro would not even notice as the assassin bumped into him and used it to pierce the skin.

But even the spies weren't convinced by this plan wondering why the boffins couldn't "come up with something more sophisticated".

6. The murderous mafia milkshake

Despite the sheer oddity of this idea, Mr Escalante said it was the one that actually come closest to succeeding.

In the early 1960s, Mafia bosses, incensed at Castro's crackdown, conspired with their erstwhile enemies at the CIA.

The plan was to slip a poison pill into either the ice cream or milkshake to be served to Castro at the Havana Hilton, where an earlier botched assassination attempt had happened.

But either the milkshake spilt on the floor or the pill got stuck to the side of the freezer.

Either way, the plan came unstuck.

7. The Panamanian podium

Cuba's leader Fidel Castro plays golf at the Colinas de Villa real club in Havana, Cuba, in 1960. Photo / AP
Cuba's leader Fidel Castro plays golf at the Colinas de Villa real club in Havana, Cuba, in 1960. Photo / AP

This was reportedly one of the later attacks, with claims the CIA lent support to Cuban exiles that fled the country following the revolution.

In 2000, Castro visited Panama. Beneath a podium where he was due to deliver a speech 90kg of high explosives were hidden.

But Cuban security foiled the plot before Castro arrived.

8. The horror hankies

The CIA clearly loved botulism. Another proposed execution attempt would see spores spread all over Castro's handkerchiefs.

9. The incredible disappearing beard

Less a plot to kill him physically, more a plan to savage Castro's public image.

While his shoes were taken away to be shined, depilatory powder would be sprinkled on them causing his hair, eyebrows and trademark beard to fall out. Another variant would see LSD sprayed in a broadcasting studio Castro was about to visit causing him to have an episode live on air.

Despite so many efforts, Castro survived until a ripe old age.

But while America's efforts to end his life failed, it may have been galling for Castro to live to see his influence wane.

Increasingly sidelined in his later years, as his brother Raul took over the country's reins, by the time of his death a US president had made a triumphant visit to Cuba and the bars and hotels across Havana were ringing with US tourist dollars.

The Cuba he led to revolution was now increasingly creeping closer to its former foe.

- news.com.au

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