The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today issued the following statement on the death of former Cuban President Fidel Castro:
“It is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of Cuba’s longest serving President.
“Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro 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”.
“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. It was also a real honour to meet his three sons and his brother President Raúl Castro during my recent visit to Cuba.
“On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and many, many supporters of Mr. Castro. We join the people of Cuba today in mourning the loss of this remarkable leader.”
Remembering the former Cuban dictator as a “remarkable leader”, he said he would be mourned by Canada.
“While a controversial figure, both Mr Castro’s supporters and detractors recognised his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for ‘El Comandante’,” he said in a statement.
His kind words for Castro immediately drew criticism from Conservative lawmakers who said Mr Trudeau was praising a cruel dictator.
Mr Trudeau’s father, former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, became the first leader of a Nato-member state to travel to Castro’s Cuba, arriving in January 1976 during the middle of the Cold War, against Washington’s wishes.
“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.
The Canadian leader visited Cuba only last week to boost ties, as the communist island’s historic breakthrough in restoring relations with the United States hangs in the balance following Donald Trump’s presidential election win.
“Fidel Castro was a larger-than-life leader who served his people for almost half a century,” Mr Trudeau said on Saturday. “A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr Castro made significant improvements to the education and health care of his island nation.”
Mr Trudeau and his wife, Sophie, “offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and many, many supporters of Mr Castro,” he added. “We join the people of Cuba today in mourning the loss of this remarkable leader.”
His warm words were parodied on Twitter, where #Trudeaueulogies quickly began trending as users imagined his tributes to other “controversial” leaders.
His glowing tribute was in stark contrast to Mr Trump, who called Castro a “brutal dictator”.
“While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve,” Mr Trump said in a statement.
He added that the the “deaths and pains caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased,” vowing to help the Cuban people “begin their journey towards liberty and prosperity.”
However, Mr Trudeau was far from the only politician who praised Castro. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, praised Castro’s “heroism”. The hashtag #ForAllHisFlaws surfaced on Twitter after Mr Corbyn’s statement after his death, in which he said: “For all his flaws, Castro’s support for Angola played a crucial role in bringing an end to Apartheid in South Africa, and he will be remembered both as an internationalist and a champion of social justice.”