Score: the Beard 638, would- be assassins 0
IT’S hard to say which is most alarming: that people tried to kill Cuban dictator Fidel Castro 638 times or that they failed to kill Castro 638 times.
The figure is an estimate by Cuban intelligence and there’s no way of verifying it.
However, no one denies that there have been numerous and creative attempts to knock off the Beard since he rose to power 50 years ago.
US government attempts hit a peak in the 1960s after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, but many of the ideas here would sit comfortably in an episode of Get Smart . There are times in this entertaining and sometimes disturbing British Channel 4 documentary when you can almost hear Maxwell Smart say: ‘‘ Not the old exploding mollusc trick!’’
That particular idea, to pack a seashell full of high explosives and blow up Castro as he indulged his passion for scuba diving, failed when US spooks couldn’t find a mollusc large enough to provide a sufficiently big bang.
This was despite extensive research that apparently involved buying two books on the subject. Other aborted plans included a contaminated handkerchief, an exploding cigar and a poison pen syringe.
One that almost succeeded was a plan to recruit an ex-lover to poison Castro with pills containing botulism. Unfortunately, the would-be murderer concealed them in a jar of cold cream and they dissolved before she had a chance to use them.
Yet her failure was only one among many. Everyone from old schoolfriends to the CIA and the mafia have
Survivor: An elderly Fidel Castro, who stepped down as president this year had a crack but somehow failed to hit their mark. At one stage, an assassination team had a bazooka ready to blow Castro away but failed to pull the trigger because they could not find a way of aiming the weapon without giving away their presence.
All of which would be quite humorous if it weren’t for the serious side of this film and its message about the US administration’s ambivalence towards some brands of terrorism on its home patch.
Castro-hating Cuban exiles provided the main impetus for the campaign to kill the Cuban leader from the ’ 70s onwards and the documentary raises several significant questions about their methods, including their suspected involvement with the destruction of a Cuban airliner in 1976.
The film interviews several hardline exiles whose extreme hatred of Castro apparently fuelled their belief that all means of deposing him were justified. They include convicted terrorist Orlando Bosch, controversially released from prison and granted US residency by George Bush Sr at the request of his son Jeb.
Twelve hours of Kylie Kwong? Look, I think she’s lovely, but a whole day of episodes could wear out anyone’s welcome. I guess one could dip in and out during the course of the day and make it a yum cha rather than a sit-down banquet. No profanity here; after all, this is the Hallmark channel, though profanities would be the first things to leave my lips if what happened to the divorcing couple here happened to me. So what four-letter thing lurks behind the pretty sets and impossibly decent divorcing people? The damn divorce lawyers fall for each other. The effrontery! These hardworking forensic investigators get a rough ride, turning up when another program fails, spending time in the vault, then being whipped out during summer in glaring double episodes. Some day I’d like a television executive to explain to me exactly how this promotes viewer loyalty. In any case, tonight’s episodes are from the middle of the 2006 debut season. In the first, a deadly fungus is released when boy genius Zach ( Eric Millegan, pictured) cuts into the bones of a body found in a fallout shelter. In a topical touch, this causes the team to be quarantined together for Christmas. In the second episode they are at large again, on the case of a woman who has had loads of work done on her face. In the US? Who would have thought?