Computer game’s ‘kill Castro’ theme riles Cuba

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro has always seemed unruffled by the myriad unsuccessful plots to kill him.

“I think I hold the dubious record of having been the target of more assassination attempts than any politician, in any country, in any era,” he once said. “The day I die, nobody will believe it.”

Now computer games players all over the world are being given a chance to succeed where so many have failed – and the Cuban Government has taken a dim view.

Call of Duty: Black Ops, which was released this week, gives gamers the chance to take part in an imaginary attempt by a CIA hit squad to hunt down and kill Fidel Castro.

The island’s state-run media yesterday attacked the game, claiming America was trying to initiate a virtual assassination of the Cuban leader through a game that would turn children into “sociopaths”.

“What the US couldn’t accomplish in more than 50 years, they are now trying to do virtually,” was the opinion of Cubadebate, a state-run news website.

“This new video game is doubly perverse. On the one hand, it glorifies the illegal assassination attempts the United States Government planned against the Cuban leader … and on the other, it stimulates sociopathic attitudes in North American children and adolescents.”

Call of Duty: Black Ops, the latest game from the highly popular first-person-shooter franchise of US publisher Activision, is set at the height of the Cold War with players taking part in covert missions against communist enemies of the United States such as the Soviet Union, Cuba and Vietnam.

The managing director of Total Interactive, the New Zealand distributor for game maker Activision, said sales from day one on Tuesday had exceeded those of last year’s big hit Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which was a New Zealand record.

“Pre-sales were huge. It is on track to be the biggest release of the year and one of the biggest entertainment releases of all time.”

New Zealand sales figures will be released on Monday.

The opening level is set in the hours leading up to the Bay of Pigs invasion, the disastrous 1961 attempt by Cuban exiles and the US military to topple the Castro regime. Gamers take on the role of a member of an elite CIA assassination squad sent into Cuba before the invasion to decapitate the regime.

After a series of skirmishes in the streets of Havana the squad breaks into a villa where they are told the Cuban leader is hiding.

The assassination team bursts into a room and guns down a bearded man in military fatigues whom they suspect to be Mr Castro.

At the end of the level, however, one of the members of the squad is captured and discovers that they only succeeded in killing a body double.

The “real” Mr Castro, complete with cigar and menacing laugh, then hands over the CIA operative to a renegade Soviet general.

Although the game’s mission is fictional, for the Cuban regime it clearly contains shades of reality a little too close for comfort – there were allegedly hundreds of attempts on Mr Castro’s life.

But the island’s leadership faces a struggle to stop the game. Last night Activision announced it had posted US$630 million ($812.3 million) sales in the 24 hours after it went on the market, a record for any entertainment release.

Game on

The Game: Call of Duty: Black Ops.

The mission: Kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Cuban verdict: “What the US couldn’t accomplish in more than 50 years, they are now trying to do virtually”.

Local verdict: Already a huge hit, predicted to be the biggest game released this year.

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