Filed at 4:36 a.m. EST
By The Associated Press
HAVANA (AP) --
Poisoned cigars, poisoned pills and a poisoned pen were just a few of the
gadgets that figured in the CIA's unsuccessful schemes to do away with Fidel Castro and his
devices and many more are described in Havana's Interior Ministry Museum,
to four decades of spying and plotting against Castro's rule -- and to the Cuban fascination with
Cold War espionage.
Inside the yellow
mansion on a broad residential avenue of Havana, glass cases are filled
confiscated spy paraphernalia: tiny radios and decoders, hidden microphones and miniature cameras,
Thompson machine guns and C-4 plastic explosives.
While many Americans
might consider the espionage museum a fascinating Cold War artifact, most
Cubans see it as testimony to practices that still persist.
there was little surprise on this side of the Florida Straits when U.S.
Miami accused 10 people of spying for Cuba.
Castro, in an
interview with CNN, said the most surprising thing about the case was ``that
spying country in the world is accusing the most spied-upon country in the world of espionage.''
He admitted Cuba
has sent a few of its own to spy in what it considers enemy territory,
counterrevolutionary organizations to inform us about activities that are of great interest to us.''
Some such agents
are honored at the Interior Ministry Museum. One glass case contains a
bloodstained shirt displayed like a religious relic. ``Manuel Lopez de la Portilla, 1940-1960,'' the
sign reads. ``Killed July 16, 1960, when his identity was discovered by a counterrevolutionary
The museum recognizes
as a martyr Rogelio ``Pao'' Iglesias Patino, who died in 1983 at age 47
when his boat sank as he traveled to the United States ``to fulfill a mission within the columns of the
The walls of
the museum are lined with painted portraits of him and scores of other
men and women
who died protecting Cuba's communist state.
two young diplomats who were kidnapped from the Cuban embassy in Buenos
Argentina, and killed, two security agents who died when a bomb exploded at the Cuban embassy in
Lisbon, Portugal, and an agent who was killed in a dynamite blast at the Cuban commercial office in
Below the photographs
are the displays: tiny cameras disguised as disposable plastic lighters,
a tin of
Hershey's Cocoa stuffed with detonator capsules, black metal decoders for deciphering messages
printed in a series of tiny baffling numbers legible only with a magnifying glass.
dozens of known acts against the revolutionary leaders of Cuba by the CIA
innumerable bands that were in its service, not one leader of the Revolution has been assassinated,''
a large blue sign declares proudly.
It wasn't for lack of trying.
The museum describes dozens of unsuccessful schemes dreamed up to assassinate Castro.
One display tells
of a plot in which CIA agents sent a hypodermic needle disguised as a pen
major in the Cuban army. The plot, never carried out, called for the major to fill the contraption with
poison and use it to assassinate Castro.
shows scuba diving equipment, machine guns and pistols seized from an anti-Castro
group that penetrated Cuba by sea.
With that kind
of history, Cubans have long been fascinated with espionage -- especially
United States against their country.
Among the books
sold at the open-air market at Old Havana's Plaza de Armas are titles such
``The Secret Assasination Report: CIA Targets Fidel,'' and ``The Secret War: CIA Covert
Operations Against Cuba, 1959-62.''
While U.S. authorities say Cubans are paranoid, the Cubans say they are merely realistic.
In August, authorities
in the Dominican Republic tightened security shortly before a visit by
after receiving reports about a plot against his life.
Around the same
time, a U.S. grand jury in San Juan, Puerto Rico, indicted seven Cuban
charges of plotting to kill Castro last year during a Latin American summit in Venezuela.
Havana, a Salvadoran man awaits trial in a series of bombings of luxury
year, including one that killed an Italian tourist.
As long as such
violent schemes and suspected spying continue, the Cuban government will
methods -- including spying -- to protect itself, Castro told CNN.
``We are subjected
to ferocious and total espionage,'' he said.
Copyright 1998 The New York Times Company