Fidel Castro: The Survivor

A high-powered rifle with sniper’s scope and silencer.  A poisoned cigar.  An exploding pen. An exploding sea shell.  Poisoned toiletries (toothpaste, mouthwash, etc.).  A poisoned scuba diving wet suit.  A poisoned drink.  Mind altering drugs.  Drugs to make facial and scalp hair fall out.  A car bomb.  A house bomb.  An atomic bomb.

No, that wasn’t Theodore “Unabomber” Kaczynski’s Christmas list.  At one time or another every one of the above was proposed or discussed by the CIA, the Pentagon, the Justice Department and/or the White House as a way of ending the rule, and life, of Cuba’s “Maximum Leader,” Fidel Castro. The life began in 1926. The rule began this week (Feb. 17) in 1959 when his rag-tag revolutionary army took power in Havana on the heels of the fleeing former Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista.

Interestingly, President Eisenhower’s first reaction to Castro was mixed. He was wary of this self-proclaimed revolutionary but gratified to have finally been rid of the pro-American, but extremely corrupt, ruthless, despised (and embarrassing) Batista.  And as for Castro, at the time he came to power he held no strong ideological convictions. Unlike his fellow revolutionary, Che Guevara, he was not initially a Marxist-Leninist, although like most good Latin Americans he did have a reflexive dislike of the U.S. But many historians have argued that with more patient and flexible diplomacy, Castro might not have wound up in the arms of the Russians and might even have been lured into the American camp.

Perhaps, but several realities get in the way of this hope. First, Castro had made no secret of his intention, once in power, to “nationalize” (confiscate) millions of dollars worth of American owned property — something no U.S. president could shrug off without political consequences. Second, although Castro’s conversion to Marxism came late, it was probably inevitable given his obsession with holding on to power.  The great thing about being a Marxist-Leninist is that you don’t have to hold elections, or seek consensus with rival parties, or worry about public opinion.

In any case, the Soviets couldn’t help but see the advantages of embracing an anti-U.S. revolutionary dictator of a country just 90 miles off Florida’s coast.  Thus began a Soviet-Cuban partnership whose implications for U.S. national security — including the fear (soon-to-be-realized) that Cuba would become a launching pad for Soviet nuclear missiles — led to the assassination proposals listed above.

None successful. In fact, it wasn’t until April of 2011 that Castro voluntarily stepped down as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, and at this point it looks like his death, when (if?) it comes, will be of natural causes.  Forget the television show. This guy is the real “Survivor.”