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Exploding shellfish assassination attempt on Fidel Castro might have been the craziest of all


Say what you want about Fidel Castro, but there’s no denying that the late dictator was pretty good at surviving assassination attempts.

The former Cuban leader, who dominated the island nation for several decades, passed away last weekend at the age of 90.

Cuban exile groups and the CIA spent close to 50 years devising wildly creative ways to get rid of the dictator. Castro’s loyal security men estimated that the number of attempts on his life came to a staggering total of 634.

In what was without a doubt the wildest and most inventive attempt, documents released under the Clinton administration showed that the agency had invested a huge amount of money in large quantities of Caribbean molluscs. The plan? Exploding shellfish of course.


A Caribbean Conch shell similar to the one which was to be used in the assassination

The intention was to find a shell large enough to contain an amount of explosives sufficient to kill Castro. The shells were then to be painted in vivid colours which would, in theory, attract the attention of a scuba diving Fidel Castro. However, the plot was eventually abandoned, as was one directly preceding it involving a contaminated diving suit. 

That’s right. A contaminated diving suit.

Aware that Castro was a keen scuba diver the CIA had hatched a plot to lace a diving suit and breathing apparatus with Tuberculosis. The National Security Archive alleges that the US government contacted lawyer James Donovan to conduct secret negotiations with Castro.

“At some point during Donovan’s negotiations with Castro”  officials in the covert operations division “devised a plan to have Donovan be the unwitting purveyor of a diving suit and breathing apparatus, respectively contaminated with Madura fungus and tuberculosis bacteria, as a gift for Castro,” a section from the National Security Archive reveals.


Later, in what was perhaps the most Bond-novel-esque assassination plot of them all, the CIA had planned to finish off Castro with an exploding cigar.

In the early stages of the Kennedy administration, a plan was devised whereby the Cuban leader would have a cigar, which was to be laced with explosives, slipped into his supply. This was supposed to take place in the early 1960s, but was aborted and then attempted again in 1966. It was reported by the Saturday Evening Post in 1967 that a CIA operative at the United Nations had a year earlier been working to put the plan into effect. The rumored ongoing plot became so notorious that it inspired the cover of MAD Magazine in 1963.

However, regardless of how notorious the plot became there was plenty of speculation that none of this ever took place. It was even said that the CIA were perpetuating the rumours as they overshadowed the organisation’s various other underhand dealings at the time.


Many of the attempts to kills Castro were devised as part of Operation Mongoose, a covert CIA program aimed at toppling the Cuban government. Other assassination attempts under the operation included a ball-point pen containing a hypodermic syringe pre-loaded with a lethal fluid known as Blackleaf 40, mafia-style execution plans and a plot to blow the leader up on a visit to Ernest Hemingway’s museum in Cuba.

Obviously none of the above ploys were successful, and amazingly Castro made it to the age of 90, in spite of the estimated 634 attempted assassinations.

Whatever you think of him, he was definitely a guy who knew how to dodge an exploding shellfish or two.



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