Castro claimed he survived 634 attempts or plots to assassinate him, mainly masterminded by the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S.-based exile organizations.
We know from declassified CIA reports, as well as the testimony of some would-be assassins, that the agency did try to kill Castro plenty of times. Not all these plots were executed; many were ideas plucked from the fevered imagination of the world's most powerful spy agency. They inevitably shrivelled up when exposed to reality. Somewhere behind this list of exploding cigars and flesh-eating wetsuits are a bunch of nameless inventors, and what must have been a pretty surreal office culture.
More than anything, the list suggests a complex, tangled bureaucracy that was able to insulate personnel from the external review, while giving them unlimited resources to kill a distant, powerful figure of myth; the phantom menace of the United States.
This went on for years, and in that time President John F. Kennedy was shot dead by a gunman in Dallas. The Kennedy administration had tried to kill Castro 42 times, according to Escalante.
A series of newspaper reports in the 1970s led to a government investigation of the CIA's abuses of power. President Ford banned political assassinations in 1976, but according to Escalante, they continued for two more decades, including in the '90s under President Clinton.
Escalante's list of assassination attempts per US administration: Eisenhower: 38, Kennedy: 42, Johnson: 72, Nixon: 184, Carter: 64, Reagan: 197, Bush Sr: 16, Clinton: 21.