Cuba claims big number of anti-Castro plots
HAVANA (Reuters) -- Cuba alleged on Monday that its president, Fidel
Castro, has been targeted in 637 assassination plots over 40 years, which it
called a world record and blamed entirely on the United States.
At least seven of these plots were foiled in the last decade alone, according
to court testimony by Cuban officials.
Poisoned cigars, an exploding sea-shell and a wet suit coated with a fatal
bacteria, as well as copious numbers of more conventional arms, were part
of the arsenal of the many would-be assassins, a Cuban intelligence officer
"No other political leader in the world has had so many assassination plans
hatched against him," Jose Perez Fernandez, a Cuban Interior Ministry
colonel, told a court in Havana.
Fernandez was testifying in an ongoing civil court case in which Cuba is
claiming $181 billion in damages from the U.S. government for alleged
deaths and injuries to its citizens from 40 years of hostile U.S. policy toward
the communist-ruled Caribbean island.
Washington has ignored the claim, and no U.S. government representative
attending the hearing, which began July 5.
"The assassination of the Commander in Chief (Fidel Castro) became a
sickly obsession following the triumph of the (1959 Cuban) Revolution," said
Perez, who reeled off dozens of alleged deaths plots against Castro between
1959 and 1998.
Responsibility for these assassination plans lies with the U.S. government,
agencies including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and "terrorist
organisations" created, financed or tolerated by Washington, he said.
"These plans were attempted and organised during every single one of the
nine U.S. administrations that have ruled during these 40 years," the Cuban
officer said. This constituted a U.S. policy of "state terrorism," he added.
"Terrorist organisations" is a reference to anti-Castro Cuban exile groups,
such as the Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation (CANF),
which Perez accused of involvement in several death plots against the Cuban
leader this decade.
CANF leaders were involved in foiled plans to kill Castro at an
Ibero-American summit in Cartagena, Colombia, in 1994; at another
Ibero-American summit in Argentina in 1995; and at a similar meeting in
Venezuela, in 1997, he said.
The most recent abortive plot occurred in late 1998 and targeted the Cuban
leader when he attended a summit of Ibero-American leaders in Oporto,
Portugal, he said. Two Cuban-born brothers and former political prisoners,
Manuel and Jesus Guerra, hatched this plan, Fernandez alleged.
Perez' testimony drew on declassified U.S. government intelligence
documents, especially a report on CIA-planned assassinations of foreign
political leaders made to a U.S. Senate Select Committee in 1975.
One of the more outlandish methods considered by the CIA for killing
Castro in the 1960s was to place explosives in a sea shell on the sea bed in
an area where the Cuban leader, a keen scuba diver, might be swimming.
Another related suggestion was to coat his wet suit with a killer bacteria.
One plot, hatched during a visit to Chile in 1972, involved a gun hidden