Obama, Trump speak out on Fidel Castro’s death in Cuba

After the death Friday of communist Cuban leader Fidel Castro, several politicians in the United States reacted to the news, including President Obama, who offered condolences to the Castro family and extended “a hand of friendship” to the Cuban people. 

Acknowledging that Castro’s death would be greeted by “powerful emotions” by Cubans in the country and in the U.S., the president left it to history to “record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.” 

He walked a fine line in noting that there were “countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation.”

Mr. Obama mentioned his own efforts during his White House tenure “to put the past behind us,” despite the nearly 60 years of political discord between the U.S. and its island neighbor.

He concluded with a reminder to Cubans that they would always “have a friend and partner in the United States of America.”

Earlier this year, the president made an historic visit to Cuba, following his efforts to normalize diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the island nation. Mr. Obama was the first sitting president to step foot on Cuban soil since Castro’s guerrilla force overthrew the U.S.-backed government in 1959.

President-elect Trump, who is spending the holiday weekend in Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach, Florida, resort, issued his own succinct statement, delivering it on his favorite social media platform. 

The president-elect, via Twitter, has also weighed in on U.S. policies regarding Cuba in the past, pledging to “reverse” the Obama-led efforts to normalize relations between the two countries. 

Other politicians had harsher reactions to Castro’s death, like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is Cuban-American. 

The Republican blasted Castro’s legacy as one of an “evil murderous dictator” who turned Cuba into “an impoverished island prison.” 

He tweeted his full statement here: 

California Rep. Ed Royce, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that “no one should rule anywhere near as long as Fidel Castro did.”

“His legacy is one of repression at home and support for terrorism abroad. Sadly, Raul Castro is no better for Cubans who yearn for freedom,” Royce said.

The communist dictator, however, was “fondly” remembered by former President Jimmy Carter, who took several steps to normalize relations between the U.S. and the island nation during his time in office, including the establishment of “interest sections” — now embassies — in Havana and Washington. 

“Rosalynn and I share our sympathies with the Castro family and the Cuban people on the death of Fidel Castro,” Mr. Carter said in a statement released Saturday by the Atlanta-based Carter Center. “We remember fondly our visits with him in Cuba and his love of his country. We wish the Cuban citizens peace and prosperity in the years ahead.” 

In 2011, Mr. Carter visited with Castro in Cuba, telling reporters that he and the then-84-year-old leader had “welcomed each other as old friends.” 

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who Mr. Trump could tap for a post in his incoming administration, seemed to react to Mr. Carter’s statement Saturday with his own critical tweet: 

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World reacts to death of Fidel Castro

A news ticker in New York’s Times Square announces Fidel Castro’s death, November 26, 2016.

In a statement, President Barack Obama said, “We know that this moment fills Cubans – in Cuba and in the United States – with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.

“For nearly six decades, the relationship between the United States and Cuba was marked by discord and profound political disagreements. During my presidency, we have worked hard to put the past behind us, pursuing a future in which the relationship between our two countries is defined not by our differences but by the many things that we share as neighbors and friends – bonds of family, culture, commerce, and common humanity. This engagement includes the contributions of Cuban Americans, who have done so much for our country and who care deeply about their loved ones in Cuba.

“Today, we offer condolences to Fidel Castro’s family, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people. In the days ahead, they will recall the past and also look to the future. As they do, the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America.” 

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Fidel Castro’s death inspires mix of celebration and sorrow

The death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro prompted celebrations among the country’s exiles in Miami — and expressions of sorrow from some leaders worldwide.

Within half an hour of the Cuban government’s announcement Saturday of the death of the 90-year-old revolutionary leader, cheers were heard in Miami’s Little Havana. Thousands of people banged pots, waved Cuban flags and whooped in jubilation. “Cuba si! Castro no!” they chanted, while others screamed “Cuba libre!”

“Feels weird,” said Gabriel Morales, a 40-year-old financial executive in Miami, whose parents left Cuba after Castro came to power.

“Been waiting to hear this news all my life. Seems unreal,” Morales said in a text message to an Associated Press reporter.

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People celebrate after the announcement of the death of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, in the Little Havana district of Miami, Florida, U.S. November 26, 2016.

REUTERS

However, Castro was mourned by some present and former national leaders.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a telegram to Raul Castro: “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.”

Salvador Sanchez Ceren, the president of El Salvador, said he felt “deep sorrow … of my friend and eternal companion, Commander Fidel Castro Ruz.”

Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto tweeted that “Fidel Castro was a friend of Mexico, promoting bilateral relations based on respect, dialogue and solidarity.”

“Fidel Castro was one of the most iconic personalities of the 20th century,” Indian Prime Minister Nerendra Modi said on Twitter. “India mourns the loss of a great friend.” 

The country’s president, Pranab Mukherjee tweeted: “Heartfelt condolences on sad demise of Cuba’s revolutionary leader, former president & friend of India, Fidel Castro.”

Castro was a defiant demagogue, a dictator, a charismatic leader and, for decades, a Soviet puppet, all rolled into one, CBS News’ Pamela Falk, author of “Cuban Foreign Policy,” said. 

The communist adversary for 10 U.S. presidents, Castro wore his trademark beard and army fatigues for nearly five decades, giving fiery speeches against what he called the evils of imperialism.

In the 1950s, Castro led the overthrow of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.

Having seized power after years of fighting from the Sierra Maestra mountains, Castro was among the longest-serving heads of state, and he successfully gave Cuba outsized prominence in world affairs. He eliminated illiteracy, but failed to bring prosperity. Castro achieved a low infant mortality rate and a national health care system but at a price. He had no tolerance for dissent. Counter-revolutionaries were jailed by the thousands. He nationalized private real estate and many fled the island or were forced out.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said Castro “made immortal historical contributions to the development of socialism around the world.”

“With his death, the Chinese people have lost a close comrade and a sincere friend. His glorious image and great achievements will be recorded in history forever,” Xi said in a telegram to Raul Castro, state broadcaster CCTV said.

In a telegram to Raul Castro, Pope Francis offered “my sense of grief to your excellency and family.”

In a sign of his personal esteem, Francis signed the telegram, breaking from the Vatican’s usual practice of have the secretary of state send such messages. Francis met Castro during the papal visit to Cuba in September 2015.

Peter Hain, a former member of the British Cabinet and anti-apartheid campaigner, tempered praise for Castro with criticism of some aspects of his long rule.

“Although responsible for indefensible human rights and free-speech abuses, Castro created a society of unparalleled access to free health, education and equal opportunity despite an economically throttling USA siege,” Hain said. “His troops inflicted the first defeat on South Africa’s troops in Angola in 1988, a vital turning point in the struggle against apartheid.”

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A man looks at tributes outside the Cuban Embassy in London, following the announcement of the death of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, central London, Britain November 26, 2016.

REUTERS

A statement from the Spanish government hailed Castro as “a figure of enormous historical importance.”

“As a son of Spaniards, former president Castro always maintained close relations with Spain and showed great affection for his family and cultural ties. For this reason Spain especially shares the grief of Cuba’s government and authorities,” the government statement said.

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A supporter of late Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro holds a red rose as she sings with other supporters during a gathering outside the Cuban Embassy in Madrid, Spain, November 26, 2016.

REUTERS

“Fidel Castro in the 20th century did everything possible to destroy the colonial system, to establish cooperative relations,” former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was quoted as telling the Interfax news agency.

“Fidel survived and strengthened the country during the most severe U.S. blockade, while there was enormous pressure on him, and still led his country out of the blockade on the road of independent development.”

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro recalled Castro’s departure from Mexico on the yacht Granma with his brother Raul and several dozen supporters to start their revolution.

“Sixty years after the Granma sailed from Mexico, Fidel sails toward the immortality of all those who fight their whole lives,” Maduro tweeted. “Onward to victory, always!”

Bolivian President Evo Morales said on Twitter that Castro was “the leader who taught us to fight for the sovereignty of the state and the dignity of the peoples of the world.”

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras tweeted: “Goodbye, commandante. Until the peoples’ eternal victory.”

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