Fidel Castro died on the night of November 25, 2016, of undisclosed causes. He was ninety years old. His long life was lived in direct defiance of the CIA, which attempted to kill him over six hundred known times.
Castro was a hero to some and a villain to others. He presided over a one-party Cuban government from 1959 to 2008, during which time the American government considered him one of the greatest threats to their hegemony over the Western hemisphere.
"If surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic event, I would win the gold medal," Castro once drolly remarked on the CIA's decades-long campaign to assassinate him through various bizarre methods.
According to Fabian Escalante, Castro's former intelligence chief, claims that there were 638 CIA assassination attempts on Castro. Most famously, they tried to get him with an exploding cigar. Among their other plots were exploding seashells, a fountain pen loaded with poison and a straight-up execution. Their efforts were most intense during the 1960's.
Another well-known incident was when the CIA tapped Martina Lorenz, a former mistress of Castro's, to try to feed him poison. Before the attempt, Lorenz, an American, returned to the United States after getting pregnant and becoming ill. The CIA approached her and convinced her, falsely, that Castro was planning to force her into a late-term abortion upon her return to Cuba.
They persuaded her that she had a moral obligation to kill Castro. She was to drop a poison capsule into his drink. Castro learned about her intentions before she could follow through on them, however. He allegedly confronted her and handed her a loaded gun, telling her to shoot him. She couldn't.
"I thought he was going to shoot me, but he gave me the gun and asked, 'Did you come to kill me?"
"Then he took a puff on his cigar and closed his eyes. He made himself vulnerable because he knew I couldn't do it. He still loved me and I still loved him."
Lorenz says she then removed the bullets from the gun and embraced Castro.
In addition to assassination plots, there were also American schemes to publicly humiliate the Cuban leader. They once tried to lace his boots with a powder that would make his beard fall out while he addressed the United Nations in 1960. They also tried to plant cigars laced with LSD that would make him laugh uncontrollably during a TV interview.
Although they got close a couple times, American intelligence operatives were ultimately unable to kill Castro. Today, Castro is remembered both as a tyrant and as a David to America's Goliath.