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.
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.
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.