Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is being attacked by opposition critics and across social media for his comments on the death of former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. The Prime Minister recognized recently deceased Cuban revolutionary, who had close ties to the Trudeau family, as a “larger than life leader”.
The statement, issued Saturday in the wake of the dictator’s death, calls Castro “A legendary revolutionary and orator,” who, “made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.”
“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’.”
Many have been critical of the statement for not acknowledging the human rights violations which occurred under his regime, including the imprisonment and killing of thousands of people.
Trudeau responded to the criticism on Sunday, saying, “He certainly was a polarizing figure and there certainly were significant concerns around human rights.”
“That’s something that I’m open about and highlighted, but on the passing of his death I expressed a statement that highlighted the deep connection between the people of Canada and the people of Cuba.”
However, outrage over the original comments remains widespread. United States Senator Marco Rubio, whose parents fled the Castro regime, attacked the Prime Minister on Twitter: “Is this a real statement or a parody? Because if this is a real statement of the PM of Canada, it is shameful & embarrassing.”
Peter Kent, the Conservative Party’s Foreign Affairs critic, was critical of Trudeau’s statement, accusing him of ignoring Castro’s ugly past because the dictator was friends with his father.
“Because of his dad’s friendship with Fidel, he wants to reminiscence and pay tribute to the educational and medicine standards,” Mr. Kent said. “But he was also a mass murderer. He eliminated and executed all those who opposed him in the early years of his dictatorship. He ran the country with an iron hand.”
Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose seized the opportunity to release a statement directly contradicting Trudeau’s.
“With the passing of Fidel Castro, my thoughts and prayers are with the people of Cuba who continue to endure his long and oppressive regime, even after his death,” Ms. Ambrose said. “Under his rule, thousands were impoverished, thousands were imprisoned and executed, free speech, thought and assembly were curtailed or banned, all to live up to his version of ‘socialism.’
Castro has both admirers and detractors within Cuba and upon the global stage. He led his country through decades of a U.S. embargo which severely crippled the country economically, while also ensuring his citizens had access to healthcare and education, and virtually eliminating illiteracy. At the same time, he jailed and killed thousands of his own people, and repressed basic human rights such as freedom of speech.
Trudeau’s brother Alexandre filmed a documentary and wrote an article in 2006 on Castro, calling him “something of a superman” who “lives to learn and put his knowledge in the service of the revolution.”
He criticizes U.S. imperialist policies for forcing Castro’s hand in enacting hard-line policies and curbing
In offering condolences for Castro’s passing, Trudeau joins several other world leaders who aim to retain diplomatic ties with Cuba.