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The cold cream plot to kill Castro

In this June 1972 file photo, Cuba's leader Fidel Castro autographs a book during his visit to East Berlin in the former German Democratic Republic. Picture: Prensa Latina via AP Images

In this June 1972 file photo, Cuba's leader Fidel Castro autographs a book during his visit to East Berlin in the former German Democratic Republic. Picture: Prensa Latina via AP Images

Published Nov 28, 2016

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New York - For decades, the CIA and Cuban exiles tried to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro in what are alleged to have been 638 separate plots - including enlisting his mistress to kill him as they lay in bed together.

Marita Lorenz, now 77, was ‘torn between love and hate’ when she returned from a hospital visit to America to poison Castro using two deadly botulism pills - allegedly supplied by the Mafia - hidden in a jar of Pond’s face cream.

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The German-born American was 19 when she fell for the Cuban dictator in 1959 and spent nine months living with him at the Havana Hilton.

They shared their bedroom with a collection of Corgi toy cars and tanks that Castro loved to ‘scoot across the dresser’ - and a real bazooka that he kept under the bed.

The plot fell apart when Marita realised she couldn’t get the cold cream off the pills and flushed them down a bidet.

Other contemplated plots included putting a bomb inside a seashell on the seabed where Castro, a keen scuba diver, liked exploring; impregnating his diving suit with a fungus to give him a horrible skin disease; and handing him an exploding cigar when he visited the UN in New York. The CIA apparently also looked into slipping deadly bacteria into his tea, coffee or ice cream.

A former bodyguard claims that a 1963 attempt to have a restaurant worker at the Havana Hilton poison a chocolate milkshake was the closest the CIA ever came to killing his boss. The operation was foiled only after the poison pills fell out of a freezer in which they had been stored.

US records show that the CIA supplied various weapons to a Cuban official in the early Sixties. These included high-powered rifles and a ballpoint pen fitted with a hypodermic needle ‘so fine that the victim would not notice its insertion’. It was never used.

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And if the CIA couldn’t kill Castro, they hoped to humiliate him in public. Senior officials discussed spraying his broadcasting studio with a chemical similar to the hallucinogenic drug LSD, or dusting his shoes with a depilatory so strong that it would make his eyebrows, beard and pubic hair fall out.

The plot relied on Castro leaving his shoes outside his hotel room during a foreign trip, but he cancelled the visit.

A sniper hit and a grenade attack on a baseball game failed, too - as did an effort in 2000, when 200lb of explosives were found under a podium where he was due to speak.

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