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Canada’s Trudeau Chided for Castro Praise

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses a conference at the University of Havana, Cuba, Nov. 16, 2016.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses a conference at the University of Havana, Cuba, Nov. 16, 2016.

The reactions of world leaders to the death of Fidel Castro included sorrow and sometimes criticism for the former Cuban leader. But Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's praise for the revolutionary and dictator's "dedication and love for the Cuban people" was swiftly rebuked by some Canadian and U.S. politicians.

"I know my father was very proud to call him a friend and I had the opportunity to meet Fidel when my father passed away," the prime minister said.

Trudeau, who visited Cuba earlier this month, said, "While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro's supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for 'El Comandante.'"

Kellie Leitch, a Canadian Conservative Party lawmaker, said Trudeau's remarks about Castro sounded "as if the prime minister were reading from a story book."

Leitch said on Facebook, "When given the opportunity to recognize the Castro regime for what it was — brutal, oppressive, and murderous — our prime minister instead chose to lionize the man who denied his people basic freedoms for decades."

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, who is of Cuban descent, was startled by Trudeau's praise of Castro, saying "Is this a real statement or parody? Because if this is a real statement from the PM of Canada, it is shameful and embarrassing."

Trudeau's tribute to Castro was also mocked on social media, as #trudeaueulogies became a trending hashtag on Twitter, with users tweeting satiric praise for historic and fictional villains.

Reaction among world leaders mixed

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump wrote on Twitter that Castro was "A brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. Trump said Castro's legacy included "firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights."

U.S. House speaker Paul Ryan said, "Now that Fidel Castro is dead, the cruelty and oppression of his regime should die with him."

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said he and his wife, Rosalynn, "fondly remember our visits with him in Cuba and his love of his country." In a statement, Carter said he wishes the Cuban citizens peace and prosperity in the years ahead.

Luiz Inacio Lula, Brazil's former president, said Castro was the "greatest of all Latin Americans."

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon offered the support of the UN to the people of Cuba during spoken remarks at a sustainable transportation conference in Turkmenistan.

"Under the former president Castro, Cuba made advances in the fields of education, literacy and health. I hope that Cuba will continue to advance on a path of reform and greater prosperity,” Ban said.

Ruben Berrios Martinez, the longtime leader of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, said Castro was the "largest and most influential Latin American of the 20th century, whose verticality, vision and passion has always served as an inspiration for those who aspired to a more just, free and dignified Latin America."

Nicolas Maduro, president of Venezuela, said he spoke to Raul Castro, Fidel's brother, to convey solidarity with the Cubans.

Spanish President Mariano Rajoy Brey gave his condolences to Cuba and called Castro "a figure of historical significance."

Similarly, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Castro "one of the most iconic personalities of the 20th century."

"India mourns the loss of a great friend," Modi said on Twitter.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said "the world has lost a man who was a hero for many... his legacy will be judged by history."

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Twitter, "I lament the death of Fidel Castro Ruz, leader of the Cuban revolution and emblematic reference of the 20th century."

French President Francois Hollande called Castro a towering figure of the 20th century.

"I want, on the occasion of the death of Fidel Castro to again insist that the embargo that punishes Cuba should be lifted definitively (and that) Cuba should be fully regarded as a partner in the international community," said Hollande during a summit in Madagascar.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also praised Castro as a symbol of an era.

"Free and independent Cuba, which he (Fidel Castro) and his allies built, became an influential member of the international community and became an inspiring example for many countries and nations. Fidel Castro was a sincere and reliable friend of Russia.''

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev hailed Castro for "strengthening" his island nation.

"Fidel stood up and strengthened his country during the harshest American blockade when there was colossal pressure on him and he still took his country out of this blockade to a path of independent development," Interfax news agency quoted Gorbachev as saying.

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