A summary of American plots against Fidel Castro (1976)




In 1975 a United States Senate committee chaired by Idaho Democrat Frank Church investigated covert activities and possible abuses by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other government bodies. The Church Committee’s report was handed down in 1976. In this section, it details attempts by American agencies to assassinate or undermine Cuban leader Fidel Castro:



“We have found concrete evidence of at least eight plots involving the CIA to assassinate Fidel Castro from 1960 to 1965. Although some of the assassination plots did not advance beyond the stage of planning and preparation, one plot, involving the use of underworld figures, reportedly twice progressed to the point of sending poison pills to Cuba and dispatching teams to commit the deed. Another plot involved furnishing weapons and other assassination devices to a Cuban dissident. The proposed assassination devices ran the gamut from high-powered rifles to poison pills, poison pens, deadly bacterial powders and other devices which strain the imagination.

In August 1975, Fidel Castro gave Senator George McGovern a list of 24 alleged attempts to assassinate him, in which Castro claimed the CIA had been involved. The Committee forwarded this list to the CIA and requested it to respond to those allegations. The CIA’s response concluded: “In summary, of the incidents described in Castro’s report, the files reviewed indicate that CIA had no involvement in 15 of the cases, i.e. never had any contact with the individuals mentioned or was not in contact with them at the time of the alleged incidents. In the remaining nine cases, CIA had operational relationships with some of the individuals mentioned but not for the purpose of assassination…

The most ironic of these plots took place on November 22nd 1963 — the very day that President Kennedy was shot in Dallas — when a CIA official offered a poison pen to a Cuban for use against Castro, while at the same time an emissary from President Kennedy was meeting with Castro to explore the possibility of improved relations…

From March through August 1960… the CIA considered plans to undermine Castro’s charismatic appeal by sabotaging his speeches. According to the 1967 Report of the CIA’s Inspector General, an official in the Technical Services Division (TSD) recalled discussing a scheme to spray Castro’s broadcasting studio with a chemical which produced effects similar to LSD. The scheme was rejected because the chemical was unreliable.

During this period, TSD impregnated a box of cigars with a chemical which produced temporary disorientation, hoping to induce Castro to smoke one of the cigars before delivering a speech. The Inspector General also reported a plan to destroy Castro’s image as ‘The Beard’ by dusting his shoes with thallium salts, a strong depilatory that would cause his beard to fall out. The depilatory was to be administered during a trip outside Cuba when it was anticipated Castro would leave his shoes outside the door of his hotel room to be shined. TSD procured the chemical and tested it on animals but apparently abandoned the scheme because Castro cancelled his trip.

A notation in the records of the Operations Division, CIA’s Office of Medical Services, indicates that on August 16th 1960 an official was given a box of Castro’s favourite cigars with instructions to treat them with lethal poison. The cigars were contaminated with a botulinum toxin so potent that a person would die after putting one in his mouth. The official reported that the cigars were ready on October 7th 1960. TSD notes indicate that they were delivered to an unidentified person on February 13th 1961. The record does not disclose whether an attempt was made to pass the cigars to Castro…

In August 1960, the CIA took steps to enlist members of the criminal underworld with gambling syndicate contacts to aid in assassinating Castro. The origin of the plot is uncertain.”

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