Before Fidel Castro died of failing health on Friday, November 25, he survived an incredible 638 assassination attempts.
The attempts were planned and executed during Castro’s reign as President of Cuba from 1975 to 2008. Ironically, it was the dictator’s own vices and failing health that led him to turn over power to his younger brother, Raúl Castro, in 2008.
However, for 33 years, he managed to survive one attempt to kill and shame him after another. He once said, “If surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic event, I would win the gold medal.” As would-be assassins who wanted to murder and ridicule Castro continued to fail, they came up with weirder and weirder plans. Here are 11 of the strangest.
1. Death by lover.
Castro was known to have many lovers, but one, angry from a failed pregnancy, became a CIA informant. Maria Lorenz was tasked with poisoning him with pills, but was thrown off guard when Castro handed her a gun and closed his eyes, giving her the chance to kill him right then and there. She later told Vanity Fair, “He didn’t even flinch. He was so sure of me. We made love.”
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2. Exploding cigars.
Castro’s love of cigars was no secret. In 1967, after poisoned cigars had already failed, the CIA planned to hand Castro an exploding cigar at a U.N. meeting. However, the agent got cold feet and the plan was abandoned.