Failing to kill Fidel

July 19, 2008

Executive Action: 634 Ways to Kill Fidel Castro

By Fabian Escalante

Ocean Press, 2006

RRP $28, 229 pages

Former Cuban president Fidel Castro holds one world record most politicians would not envy. He has survived at least 634 assassination attempts.

The caveat "at least" is necessary because this figure only includes the plots actually uncovered by Cuban counterintelligence. It is very likely that other failed or aborted attempts to kill the Cuban leader remain known only to their originators in the CIA and other US spy agencies.

Former head of Cuban state security department, Fabian Escalante, documents these attempts in his book Executive Action: 634 Way to Kill Fidel Castro. According to Escalante, Cuban counterintelligence confirms 167 homicidal plots whose authors were either punished by the courts or exposed before the relevant authorities in third countries.

A further 467 conspiracies to murder Castro were uncovered by Cuban authorities in the planning phase.

The first attempt to murder Castro was initiated in late 1958, days before the mass general strike of January 1, 1959 overthrew the US-backed Batista dictatorship.

FBI agents offered US citizen Alan Robert Nye US$50,000 to infiltrate the Castro-led July 26 Movement rebel army base in the Sierra Maestra mountains posing as a volunteer fighter in order to assassinate Castro. Once captured, Nye confessed and named the plot's instigators.

By December 1959, Castro's murder had become an officially endorsed CIA policy. A range of methods were employed, including sniper rifle attacks, bombs in crowded amphitheatres, bazooka attacks, poisoned ice cubes, fragmentation grenades and drive-by shootings.

All failed either due to infiltration by the tenacious Cuban counterintelligence, or the reluctance of the assassins to kill Castro when it would likely result in their own death as well.

The CIA resorted to increasingly desperate strategies that bordered on the comical. Attending the United Nations in New York in 1960, conspirators tried to place a box of poisoned Cuban cigars in Castro's hotel room.

When this failed, operatives tried slipping Castro a cigar laced with LSD prior to a televised interview, calculating this would cause him to break into uncontrolled laughter on air. Later during the same trip, the CIA impregnated Castro's shoes with a chemical designed to make Castro's beard fall out!

Escalante's narrative itself may have lost something in the translation from Spanish. The fictionalised accounts of meetings and discussions between CIA operatives and Mafia figures will not sit well with some.

But the essential historical accuracy of the various US state-sanctioned plots to murder Fidel Castro is indisputable. Many have been conceded to be the work of the CIA by the 1975 Church Commission report to the US Senate.

That various US spy agencies could spend so much energy and resources in a bid to kill one man is a testament to the remarkable power Castro's ideas and the threat the revolution he has led poses to the US empire.

For decades, imperialism has attempted to portray the Cuban Revolution as the work of one evil person. The US refers only to "Castro's revolution". Laughably, the US State Department even lists Castro as one of the world's richest men on the assumption that Cuban state property somehow belongs to him personally.

In this, they try to deny that the Cuban Revolution has been result of the courageous, dedicated struggle of millions of people. The morbid, five-decade-long obsession with killing Castro shows that the US and Cuban emigre elites have fallen victim to their own shallow propaganda.

Yet, although Castro's historical leadership role has been central, his role in the revolution today is not indispensable.

During the extensive 2006 interview that was published in 2006 as My Life, French journalist Ignacio Ramonet asked Castro if he feared further US inspired assassination attempts.

Castro responded, "If that's it, I'm not worried in the slightest ... Everybody knows they want to assassinate Chavez. And they think that if they can assassinate me too, they've solved the problem. But the ideals for which I've struggled all my life cannot die, and they will live on for a long, long time."

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.