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Attempted Assassination of Fidel Castro

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    Introduction

     The recent and the last known attempt to assassinate Castro took place towards the end of 2000, where there were plans for Castro to deliver a speech to university students in Panama while he was attending the Ibero- American Summit. Cuba’s security forces and officials in Panama were able to arrest four exiles. They were found with explosives, weapons, and a map that Fidel would use to arrive at the forum. This attempt, just like the many others in the past life of the leadership of Fidel Castro never succeeded (Sweig, 2009). The purpose of this paper is to expose the issues underlying the attempted assassination of Fidel Castro during his leadership days.

    Argument Support

    This paper will mainly discuss the socialist background of the Cuban leader and how it led to the attempted assassinations from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It will also reveal the political forces and countries that rallied behind Castro despite the great crisis in Cuba. Additionally, the forces that supported the assassin will be discussed at length, as the execution of the assassination attempts is unfolded. The consequences of the assassination, both to the victim and the assassin will be discussed, as well as whether the plans of the assassins sailed through or not.

    The strategic geopolitical background prompting the assassination or attempt

    Fidel Castro has been well described as “the leader of the Cuban revolution, a socialist and a strong political leader” (Nosotro, 2003). From his ruling days, which trace back to 1959 up to 2007, he has been the ruler of Cuba, which has been surrounded by a great crisis. This crisis has led to several social reforms in the country, US barricades and attacks, and believing in one clear idealistic policy. Fidel’s political ideas were shaped at the University of Havana, where he studied law and politics. It is in the university that he joined several political groups which helped him in assisting the peasants and the workers. When his ideas matured, he joined the Party of the Cuban people and was appointed as a leader. He managed to unseat Fulgencio Batista with the support of the peasants and the guerrilla groups despite the strong opposition from the US, which was supporting Fulgencio. After Batista fled into exile, Fidel became the head of the Cuban Armed Forces and the Cuban Prime Minister (Nosotro, 2003).

    The reason why there were several assassination attempts in his life as a leader was because of the ideologies that he came up with. These formed the basis on which his enemies would get a group attacking him. At first, his ideas seemed positive, when he urged the Cubans not to work for their gains but for the well-being of the society. As a result, there was an increase in literacy, and virtually all Cubans could access quality health care (Nosotro, 2003).

    However, most of his leadership tactics instilled revolt among the Cubans and international communities. He controlled the Cuban ideological propaganda machinery and controlled the Cuban and international media in the country. As a result, neighborhood watch groups could not continue with the task of watching the political activities of Cuba (Nosotro, 2003).  He was even against some publications, for instance, he banned Anne Frank’s books, such as The Diary. All his ideologies were socialist. He aimed to ensure that there was the redistribution of wealth in Cuba as well as acquiring the property that was controlled by the US, strengthen the identity of the nation, support social justice, and ensure that there was no damaging influence from other powerful nations. This led to the declaration of Cuba as a socialist nation in 1961. As a result, several Jews and the high-class capitalists fled to the United States (Nosotro, 2003).

    Cuba was in constant collision with the US. This is because Fidel opposed the US influence and the US in turn opposed the socialist ideologies that brought forth collision between the two nations. He was the one behind the capture of all the businesses that were owned by the US in Cuba and established contacts with the USSR. Therefore, the US detached itself from Cuba and began planning on how it would invade it in 1960. Cuba established contacts with the USSR. The US began its attack by ensuring that there was a partial trade embargo imposed on Cuba. All imports, except medication and food, were prohibited in the nation (Nosotro, 2003).

    The Cuban exiles who were trained by the CIA landed in Cuba, at a place referred to as the Bay of Pigs in 1961. They aimed to build up a counterrevolution as they attempted to overthrow Fidel and all his politics. However, the Bay of Pigs invasion did not succeed as the Cuban people were in full support of Cuba and all the politics that revolved around it. The next attempt for the invasion was done within the nation, where the agents that were working for the US government made attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro in several instances (Nosotro, 2003).

    In the 1990s, the people of Cuba could not stand Castro. As a result, many of them fled to Florida Island, and several drowned as they tried to escape. They had passed a vote of no confidence against Castro. Indeed, his ideologies were so severe, so much so that even his biological daughter, Alina Fernandez, fled to Miami instead of being under a “despotic” father (BBC, 2008).

    The other reason as to why Fidel was a target for the assassination was because of the Cuban Missile Crisis. During the Cold War period, the USSR and Cuba collaborated to establish military bases on the island. John F. Kennedy discovered the missiles. This led to a conflict between the US and the USSR, a situation that almost led to war. After a long period of negotiations, the missiles were removed and the US promised not to ever invade Cuba (Nosotro, 2003).

    During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the US reconnaissance planes discovered the missiles of the Soviets as they were been transported to the Cuban sites. As a result, the world was confronted with a possibility of a nuclear war. The superpowers faced each other boldly, and the Soviet leader pulled all his missiles out of Cuba. This led to an increased enmity between Fidel and the US; he was rated as “America’s enemy number one” (BBC, 2008). That is the reason why there were so many attempts to assassinate him which were made by the CIA (BBC, 2008).

     Castro was also at wrangles with Israel. This is because of the happenings at the Yom Kippur War, where Fidel was behind the deployment of several Cuban soldiers including tank crews and helicopter pilots to fight with the Syrians. Several Palestinians got military training in Cuba, and there were very strong relations between Yasser Arafat, the then Palestinian president, and Fidel Castro. Compared to other nations, the Cuban economy was very poor. This was also another reason why Castro’s enemies have tried to attack him in the past. The USSR provided the nation with financial aid. However, in the 1990s, the USSR collapsed. As a result, their financial ally could no longer provide for their needs (Nosotro, 2003).

    Additionally, the trade barriers imposed by the US were still present. In one of his speeches, Castro stated that he was not in a position of offering any solution to the financial problem that had cropped up. However, he insisted that no one was supposed to surrender to capitalism. The only help he offered was to allow investments and free trading from foreign nations in Cuba. Black market trading in Cuba led to inflation, and Castro was forced to use foreign currencies. As a result, the Cuban economic and social equality was destroyed, and a higher social group was formed. Due to the falling economy and all the riots which broke out in Havana, the country continued to wallow in deep economic strife (Nosotro, 2003).

    The political forces at play on both sides (the intended victim and intended assassin)

    In this case, Castro was the intended victim and was strongly supported by the USSR. Additionally, the foreign policies of Castro and his ideological ideas were strongly supported by revolutionary groups in other countries. Some of these countries included El Salvador, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and also the Venezuela of Hugo Chavez. As a communist, the main goal for Castro was to advocate liberation from the wealthier nations. Since the US had weakened its relations with Cuba as a result of the trade embargo, several countries that were angry with the decision of the US-supported the Castro regime (Nosotro, 2003).

     The intended assassin in Castro’s case was mainly  the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which is defined as  “An independent agency of the United States government responsible for collecting and coordinating intelligence and counterintelligence activities abroad in the national interest; headed by the Director of Central Intelligence, and under the supervision of the President”(Google, 2010).

     The United States has never been content with the communist tendencies that have always been present in Cuba, under the leadership of Fidel Castro. Over the years, several attempts have been made to unseat Fidel. The U.S. government has been one political force that has rallied behind the attempts. This is evident in the Bay of Pigs fiasco, where the Cuban expatriates’ were supported by the US government to bring about disastrous consequences in Cuba. The Watergate Scandal was also proof of the US government attacking Cuba because it probed into the “Alleged assassination plots involving foreign leaders” (History House, 2007).

    After Castro led a revolution that was behind the toppling of the US and the Cuban relations in 1959, the US had no choice but to seek ways in which they could eliminate him. This was through the CIA, which partnered with the mafia to unseat and assassinate him. The efforts of the CIA to assassinate Cuba were well planned and were even documented in the Cuban Church committee in 1975. This plan was however unknown to several people, except the top-level officials of the CIA organization, for instance, the director who was referred to as  Allen Dulles (Kessler,2007).

     How the intended assassin was linked to outside political forces and what support those forces provided the intended assassin

    Castro had very close links with the Soviet Union, which was its main supporter. After the relationship between the US and Cuba worsened, the void was filled by the Soviet Union. It backed Castro in all the decisions that it made, as it supplied Cuba with trade, military support, and economic assistance. President Eisenhower of the US strengthened the embargo that was present between the US and Cuba. Additionally, the president refused to make payments for the sugar that was to be sold to the US. As a result, the Soviet Union decided to purchase sugar. This made the relationship between Cuba and the Soviet Union stronger (Library Think Quest, 2010).

    Since the Bay of Pigs invasion ended the possibility of any instances of friendship between the US and Cuba, Castro gave the Soviet Union a go -ahead, so that it could aid Cuba’s defense and deploy nuclear missiles in the country. Every time the Cuban government made numerous economic programs, they ended up failing. As a result, Cuba was forced to rely on the Soviet Union and adopted its economic system. The Soviet’s financial aid was also in favor of Cuba. Half of all the aid that was meant to fund the third world was given to Cuba. Each year, Cuba received three billion dollars per year, which was used to fund all the social programs it had (Library Think Quest, 2010).

    How the Assassination was Executed

     Several attempts have been made to unseat Fidel, even if none of them has ever succeeded. The initial attempt took place in 1960 when the Medical Services CIA office tampered with Fidel’s cigars. They dosed some of them with a strong toxin and later slipped them into Fidel’s private stash as he was traveling to the United Nations. This attempt did not sail through because the New York Police Department realized this early enough. Other attempts the CIA made were to ensure that CIA Technical Services Division would lace Fidel’s cigars with a component referred to as super- hallucinogen to embarrass him in public. The other plan was to sneak thallium salts in Fidel’s shoes. These are very dangerous salts as they would cause his eyebrows, pubic hair, and eyebrows to fall out (History House, 2007).

     The CIA had indeed investigated and realized that Castro was a fan of scuba diving. Therefore, the CIA Technical Services Division bought a diving suit which they contaminated with tuberculosis bacilli. They also put fungus spores which were meant to cause Mandura Foot, a very rare skin disease. The suit was supposed to be given to Castro. The task was assigned to the American Lawyer who was responsible for the negotiations of the Bay of Pigs prisoners. However, the plan was not successful as Fidel was given another suit by a shuttle diplomat (History House, 2007).

    Relentlessly, the CIA Technical Services were not on the verge of giving up. Even after their plan failed, the CIA came up with a new plan of exploding a conch shell at Fidel’s favorite diving spots. However, the plan was viewed as one which would be impractical, and all people would have suspected foul play (History House, 2007).

     Surprisingly, some people have indeed revealed that they were behind the assassination attempts of Fidel Castro without any fear of the public or the authorities. One of these people is known as Felix Rodriguez. He once served as a CIA operative. In his autobiography referred to as Shadow Warrior, Felix had traveled to Cuba three times to assassinate Fidel (History House, 2007).

    What were the immediate, midterm, and long-term consequences of the assassination?

    The CIA officials were never arrested, as their plans were most of the time executed from the underground. However, the recent attempt of assassinating Castro led to the arrest of the intended assassins. A plot was made, where ninety kilograms of explosives were put under the podium that Castro was supposed to use as he addressed the people(Guardian, 2006). Luckily, the personal security team of the president made serious checks of the podium and they were able to abort the plot. This time around, four men were arrested and jailed in connection with the attempt, including a person referred to as Luis Posada, who was a former CIA official and a veteran Cuban exile. However, they were later pardoned and released from jail. Posada was however sent to jail again in El Paso, as he was accused of blowing up an airliner that belonged to Cuba in 1976 (Guardian, 2006).

    Were the immediate, midterm, and long-term goals achieved, or did the plans go awry?

    Not all the assassination plans have been complicated, as several of them have been rendered as simple as they derive their tactics from the mafia, who were known to hang out in hotels and casinos in Havana. There was even one time when Fidel’s lover was used to assassinate him, a plan which did not succeed she was unable to do it. Additionally, one of Fidel’s classmates tried to shoot him in broad daylight just like the mafia did, but was caught by security men. All the plans of assassinating Castro have always gone awry since time immemorial, perhaps due to the tight security that has surrounded him during his term in leadership (Guardian, 2006).

    The assassination plots changed the life of Fidel during his term in leadership. During his early years in office, Fidel used to walk alone along the streets of Havana. However, this practice had to change. Since the assassination plots started, Castro has been known to move around twenty different addresses in Cuba so that it can be difficult for the entire potential huntsmen to trace his whereabouts (Guardian, 2006).

    Conclusion

    Indeed, the assassination attempts of Fidel Castro have come a long way. Though his leadership system has been questionable, there are still several people in Cuba who have always been on his side. The US and Cuba have always conflicted, something which a section of the Cubans hoped that with the end of Fidel Castro’s leadership, the relationship would be brought back by Raul Castro, the current Cuban president.

    References

    1. BBC. (2008).Castro: Profile of the great survivor. Retrieved from ttp://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/244974.stm
    2. Google. (2010). CIA definitions. Retrieved from http://www.google.co.ke/search?hl=en&client=firefox-a&hs=tAh&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&defl=en&q=define:cia&sa=X&ei=P-U-TNa8CJS7jAey_emmBw&ved=0CBgQkAE
    3. Guardian. (2006). 638 ways to kill Castro. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/aug/03/cuba.duncancampbell2
    4. History House. (2007). If at first, you don’t succeed: Killing Castro. Retrieved from  h ttp://www.historyhouse.com/in_history/castro/
    5. Kessler G. (2007). Trying to kill Fidel Castro. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/26/AR2007062601467.html
    6. Library Think Quest. (2010). The Soviet Union. Retrieved from http://library.thinkquest.org/18355/the_soviet_union.html
    7. Nosotro R. (2003).Fidel Castro- Leader of the Cuban Revolution. Retrieved from http://www.hyperhistory.net/apwh/bios/b4fcastro12am.htm
    8. Sweig J. (2009).Cuba: what everyone needs to know. London: Oxford.

     

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