There's no denying that the guy behind the Mariel Boatlift and the Cuban Missile Crisis can cook up a damned devious trick when he wants to. But did Fidel Castro really photobomb the Colombian 1,000 peso bill?
Colombia has been rumbling this week with the conspiracy theory that a young Castro's face is featured among the crowd painted on the bill, with even the nation's central bank director admitting "it's possible." The artist behind the work now denies inserting Castro, but judge for yourself in a side-by-side comparison.
On the left, in this photo illustration by Colombia Reports, is Fidel Castro as he appeared in 1948. On the right, the man in the painting depicting a crowd at a 1948 speech by presidential candidate Jorge Elicier Gaitan:
Young Fidel, left, and the man on the 1,000 peso bill
via Colombia Reports
Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that Fidel really was in Bogota in 1948 and actually did meet Gaitan shortly before he was assassinated. Castro participated in the riots that followed and has cited Gaitan as an early political inspiration.
But these days, Colombia -- a staunch U.S. ally and nemesis of Castro's BFF, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez -- is significantly less close to the aging Cuban strongman.
Jose Dario Uribe, director of Colombia's Central Bank, admitted on Monday that the bill, which started circulating in 2006, may well have Castro's mug on it.
This morning, though, the artist behind the portrait tells El Tiempo, "I didn't paint Castro. It's just a man in the crowd."
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Either way, the face may be a moot point; Colombia is set to phase in new 1,000-peso coins later this year.
But artist denials aside, somehow the idea of Castro cackling in Havana at millions of hostile Colombians staring at his photobombed face for five years seems all too likely.