This is the second installment of the Killing Castro series from HistoryDojo. Please read the first in the series here. Look for more installments on this fascinating effort to kill one of the most famous men of the 20th Century.
The CIA was determined to kill the leader of Cuba.
Since the founding of the United States, the government and it’s leaders had an outsized fixation with Cuba.
Starting with the American Revolution, there were calls to seize the island. Cuba was an established source for sugar, a product rapidly becoming a major cash crop around the world. Desire for the case sugar grown on the island was natural, as with the control of Cuba came immense economic wealth and power. Therefore, even from the earliest days, the United States saw it’s economic interests tied up with control of Cuba.
In his famous biography of Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow describes the role of sugar in the early days of the American colonies as a temptation difficult to resist, and one that drove the importation of slaves to harvest the profitable crop:
“The sudden popularity of sugar, dubbed “white gold,” engendered a brutal world of overnight fortunes in which slavery proved indispensable. Since indigenous Carrieans and Europeans balked at toiling in the sweltering canebrakes, thousands of blacks were shipped from slave-trading forts in West Africa to cultivate Nevis and the neighboring islands.” [pg.8]
After the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1960, the CIA was humiliated and wanted to return the favor. Humiliating Fidel Castro was something of a compulsion for the boys from Langley, seeking not only to undermine the authority of the island dictator, but to make him the laughing stock of the world.
If the humiliation could be achieved, the thinking went, then the people of Cuba would rise up and throw out Castro for a better, more pro-American leadership class.
Castro was famous worldwide not only for his defiance of the United States, but also of his love for Cuba cigars. His famous beard and cigar made him recognizable around the world and helped to brand him as the face of Cuba for the rest of the Twentieth Century.
The cigars Castro smoked became and obvious target of the CIA. Since we was expected to smoke them, then intercepting the cigars and altering them in some way would be an easy and effective way to get at their target.
The plan came to be focused on dosing a batch of cigars with a drug that when smoked would cause Castro to act strangely in public. If the cigars could be laced with LSD or some other hallucinogenic agent, Castro would suddenly seem to all around him as an unreliable leader.
If the LSD plan was not possible, then simply embarrassing Castro would be an effective alternative. Dosing the cigars with a depilatory agent to cause his beard to fall out would humiliate the dictator and undermine his characteristic image by destroying his beard.
While the plan was never launched, the cigars were reportedly prepared, but never used. The fact that it went so far as to be prepared reveals the extent to which our Central Intelligence Agency was prepared to go to target of a foreign head of state.
It begs the imagination to consider how the people of the United States would react if they saw their own leader poisoned by a foreign power, for the purposes of humiliating him or her, ultimately to be driven from power.
Become a supporter of Historydojo!
We can bring you more wonderful and amazing stories with a little help from supporters like you.