Being a public figure always comes with dangers, but it was Cuban leader Fidel Castro that faced the most threats – allegedly, over 600 attacks on him – and survived all of them. “If surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic sport, I would win the gold medal”, he said.
The Cuban politician had been a target from the very beginning. As a young revolutionary, the Cuban press twice reported him dead, and were proved wrong both times. This sparked his reputation as a defier of death, and after his victorious socialist revolution, the grim reaper was always hot on his heels.
With his radical political beliefs, the man had many enemies. His welcoming of the Soviet Union to his Caribbean shores (just 90 miles off the coast of Florida) gave the CIA a reason to be concerned, and it’s widely known that they made many attempts on his life. However, a little-known, yet extremely powerful, group of opponents was the American Mafia. Under Cuba’s old regime, they had been allowed to run their illegal activities on the island. A profitable business it was too, until Castro brought down their businesses and curtailed their moneymaking schemes.
In perhaps the world’s most unlikely team, the Mob and the CIA decided to join forces, hoping their combined power would be enough to vanquish their mutual enemy. One particularly notable attempt on his life was the Mafia’s lacing of Castro’s favourite drink with poison. A hotel in Havana served chocolate milkshakes, which Castro took a particular liking to. The leader went for his usual drink there. However, overcome with nerves, the would-be assassin accidentally dropped the pill, spilling its contents on the floor – not in the milkshake. The plot was foiled.
The CIA then apparently tried to recruit one of Castro’s ex-girlfriends to do the deed. She was given another poison pill, but on her journey, it had dissolved in the jar of face cream she had hidden it in. Undeterred, she met Castro in a hotel room, but he knew the game was afoot. “Are you here to kill me?” he asked, giving her his pistol so that she could finish the job. At this, the woman allegedly fell into his arms and broke down.
Though his enemies never stopped trying to kill him, they also attempted to destroy him in other ways, such as ruining his reputation. Attacks ranged from trying to remove his iconic beard, to drugging him before he went on air, so that he would sound disoriented to the thousands of people that were listening. If Castro’s popularity in modern-day Cuba is anything to go by, these acts failed too. Fidel Castro died in 2011 at the ripe old age of 90 in his home in Havana and was succeeded in post by brother Raul.