Fidel Castro is something of an anomaly. Among the personalities from the Cold War period, he is one of the very few left alive. Perhaps that is because Fidel Castro can’t be killed.
When Castro came to power in 1959, he became a folk hero in Cuba. Plenty of Cubans came to hate his policies and fled the country. But the image of Castro is still a common sight throughout Cuba, even though he no longer has any official role in government.
Castro’s prowess as a ladies man is legendary in his country. He has had nine children by a variety of women, and is known to have had many one-night stands.
And it was one of these women who nearly killed Castro in what we now know was one of many assassination attempts.
Her name was Marita Lorenz, and he is a German woman who had an affair with Castro starting in 1959. She is still alive and living in New York City. She said that she became pregnant with Castro’s baby and that he forced her to have an abortion. She agreed to help the CIA kill Castro.
Castro’s victory in Cuba toppled the American-backed government there, and paved the way for Soviet presence in the Western hemisphere. The U.S. government wanted Castro gone, and fast.
Marita Lorenz snuck some poison pills into his room. He discovered her plot and handed her a gun. He told her to just kill him herself. She couldn’t.
According to some sources, there were as many as 638 attempts on Castro’s life. The CIA vehemently denied this for decades.
The United States Senate eventually, in 1975, convened a committee called the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities. It was charred by Senator Frank Church, and would come to be known simply as The Church Committee.
The Church committee reviewed intelligence documents and eventually verified that there were at least 8 attempts on Castro’s life by the CIA.
Some of the ideas floated by the CIA to kill Castro were a bit comical by today’s standards. One featured an exploding cigar. a booby-trapped seashell on the ocean bottom for when Castro went diving, poisoning his cigars. There was one plot that would not kill him, but simply make his beard fall out.
The CIA thought that these attempts would endear them to President Kennedy.
Eventually, President Gerald Ford signed an Executive Order that prohibited assassinations by any American entity.
Fidel Castro has outlived all his enemies, and many of his friends. Even a natural cause like intestinal bleeding has not stopped him. When he recovered from that, then-president George W. Bush said, “One day the good Lord will take Fidel Castro away”. Castro replied: “Now I understand why I survived Bush’s plans and the plans of other presidents who ordered my assassination: the good Lord protected me.”
Image via Wikimedia Commons