In 2016, Fidel Castro somehow died at the age of 90. In life, the Cuban leader had been the target of 600+ assassination attempts. Many were orchestrated by the CIA with assistance from Cuban exiles and even American gangsters. Many of the killer ideas were frequently bizarre and comical. Among them all, the Castro exploding cigar assassination plot stands out for its cartoonish premise. But was it real?
Origins of the Exploding Cigar CIA Assassination Plot
The combustible cigar was a much loved practical joke product in the USA for the first half of the 20th century. Before people could binge-Like their friend’s selfies and read inspiring tweets from A-List celebs, great pleasure was to be found in an old man’s cigar suddenly blowing up. Being as this was the olden times, with especially lax consumer safety standards, these novelty products occasionally went off in ways that injured people. Therein lay the spark that, supposedly, lit the CIA’s idea to blow Castro’s head off with an extreme “exploding” cigar.
An Exploding Cigar at the United Nations?
Supposedly, the CIA tried to enlist an average Joe-blow New York police officer to give Castro the exploding cigar during the dictator’s visit to United Nations in 1960. At least that’s what the would-be accessory-to-assassination told the Saturday Evening Post in 1967. In the end, it seems Castro took the gift but never thought about smoking it. Other plots around this period include killing him with: a poisoned cigar, a contaminated diving suit, psychoactive drugs designed to cause him to embarass himself on live TV, dusting his shoes with defoliants that would make his beard fall out… the list goes on. Chicago mobsters also had a vested interest in having him slain. They had lost millions due to Castro. He nationalized their gambling and hotel assets in Cuba after toppling the American business-friendly dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959.
The CIA Try, Try, Try, and #Fail to Assassinate Castro
Was the exploding cigar plot real though? Evidence is shaky, but it does appear in CIA notes. It’s unlikely that it was carried to fruition. It would have been quite the grotesque Looney Tunes style assassination. Still, when you look at the confirmed, absolutely nuts ideas the CIA did try (see above), it doesn’t seem far fetched at all. The one confirmed CIA plot that almost nailed the dictator was pretty imaginative too. They came very close to killing Castro with a poison chocolate milkshake at the Havana Hilton in the 1960s. However, when the waiter went to retrieve the poison pill from a freezer drawer and drop it in the shake, he found it stuck to the cold metal. Attempting to pry it free, he ripped it open, scattering the lethal payload. Maybe it was all for the best.