CIA tried to kill Castro by lacing diving suit with tuberculosis – report

Fidel Castro scuba diving at the Bay of Pigs on a trip with American James Donovan in 1963 © National Security Archive
The CIA reportedly came up with some outlandish plots to kill former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, but this could just be the craziest yet. The US National Security Archive published information that Washington tried to give Castro a diving suit contaminated with tuberculosis.

The National Security Archive alleges that the US government contacted lawyer James Donovan to conduct secret negotiations with Castro. Given Donavan’s connections to the Cuban leader, the CIA believed they could use this to their advantage to try and assassinate Castro.

“At some point during Donovan’s negotiations with Castro” several 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 foot fungus and tuberculosis bacteria, as a gift for Castro,” a passage from the National Security Archive reveals.

However, the plan was ultimately shelved after Donovan’s handler Milan Miskovsky, a CIA lawyer, told him to make sure that the diving suit he had managed to obtain for Castro was not tampered with by the CIA. 

Fidel Castro and James Donovan at the Bay of Pigs. Castro is wearing the scuba-diving watch given to him by Donovan. © National Security Archive

Donovan met with Castro in 1963 and during one of those meetings, handed over a diving suit and a watch as a gift. The diving suit was chosen because both Donovan and Castro enjoyed diving. However, the suit was not contaminated following Miskovsky’s tipoff.

Donovan is the central figure in the Oscar-nominated movie, “Bridge of Spies,” with his role in the film played by actor Tom Hanks. During the film he tries to negotiate the exchange of captured American U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers for Soviet intelligence agent Rudolf Abel. 

While one of the most famous plots to try and kill Castro involved an exploding cigar, which was meant to blow up in his face, declassified information mentioned how the CIA also plotted to try and use the Cuban leader’s love of strawberry milkshakes to try and kill him. 

Robert F. Kennedy and Donovan. © National Security Archive

There was also another plot, which was to play on Castro’s fascination with scuba diving, the CIA reportedly invested in a number of scuba-related items. The idea was to find a shell big enough to catch his attention and to fit enough explosives to serve as a booby trap.

The last attempt surfaced in 2000 when Miami exiles planned to blow up an auditorium in Panama where Castro was scheduled to give a speech.