Castro Assassination Plots
President Kennedy shaking hands with outgoing CIA Director Allen Dulles, 29 Nov 1961. Incoming DCI John McCone is at center. Dulles was head of CIA when assassination plots were first begun.
In 1975, a Senate Committee headed by Frank Church documented what had been rumored for several years, that the CIA had pursued assassination as an instrument of foreign policy. The Church Committee issued the first of 14 reports, entitled "Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders."
Prime among the intended victims was Cuba's leader, Fidel Castro. Although there is some evidence for plots beginning as soon as 1959, the Church Committee's first documented plots began in the late summer of 1960. That is when the CIA contacted Johnny Roselli, and through him other organized crime leaders eager to return to the "good old days" in Cuba.
Some of the plots and ideas were of the James Bond variety - poisoned pills, an exploding seashell, and a planned gift of a diving suit contaminated with toxins. This, plus the failure to actually kill Castro, has sometimes allowed journalist and historians to view these as almost harmless Keystone Kops affairs. But there was deadly seriousness at work - other assassination attempts involved high-powered rifles outfitted with telescopic sights.
A particularly interesting assassination plot involved a Cuban revolutionary hero named Rolando Cubela, code-named AMLASH. The contact began as an attempt to recruit someone close to Castro to lead a coup, but then turned into an assassination operation. Strangely, this episode occurred in the fall of 1963, at the same time that the Kennedy administration was initiating secret peace overtures to Castro. Stranger still, a high-level CIA official named Desmond Fitzgerald met Cubela and represented himself as a personal representative of Robert Kennedy, apparently without RFK's knowledge. Some resolve this conflict by seeing it as a Kennedy "carrot and stick" approach. Another view is that the CIA was actively undermining the Kennedy peace initiative, by talking up assassination with a Cuban who was known to be loose-lipped.
A few revisionist historians have tried to claim that the attempts to kill Castro were part of a "Kennedy obsession" unshared by the rest of the government. This notion is easily dispelled by a few simple facts. For one thing, Castro was not the only person targeted for elimination. Perhaps more to the point, CIA plots to kill Castro began before John Kennedy won the Presidency, and they continued after he was dead.