Donald Trump says Fidel Castro was a ‘brutal dictator’

Prominent figures pay tribute to ‘iconic’ Cuban revolutionary who died at age of 90

Fidel Castro in Havana in July 1964. Photograph: Jack Manning/The New York Times

Fidel Castro in Havana in July 1964. Photograph: Jack Manning/The New York Times

 

Prominent figures have been paying tribute to Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, who has died at the age of 90.

The US president-elect, Donald Trump, referred to Castro as a “brutal dictator” who had oppressed his people for nearly six decades.

“Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights,” he said.

“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.”

Pope Francis said his death was “sad news” and that he was grieving and praying for his repose.

Francis expressed his condolences in a Spanish-language message to Fidel’s brother, President Raul Castro on Saturday.

The pope, who met Fidel Castro when he visited Cuba last year, said: “I express to you my sentiments of grief.”

Castro, who was a professed atheist, was baptised as a Catholic and educated in schools run by the Jesuits, the religious order of which the pope is a member.

US president Barack Obama said his thoughts and prayers were with Mr Castro’s family and the Cuban people.

“At this time of Fidel Castro’s passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people... History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him,” he said.

Mr Obama said both countries had worked hard to put the past behind them, “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.”

Russian president Vladimir Putin has reportedly reacted to the death by praising Castro as the “symbol of an era”.

In a telegram sent to the late Cuban leader’s brother, Raul Castro, Putin said: “The name of this distinguished statesman is rightly considered the symbol of an era in modern world history.

“Fidel Castro was a sincere and reliable friend of Russia.”

Putin’s predecessor, Mikhail Gorbachev, was quoted as telling the Interfax news agency that Castro had done “everything possible to destroy the colonial system [AND]to establish cooperative relations”.

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

A towering figure

The French president, Francois Hollande, condemned human rights abuses in Cuba, but paid tribute to the transformations Castro brought to a desperately poor country known primarily as a playground for wealthy Americans before he swept to power.

“FidelCastro was a towering figure of the 20th century. He incarnated the Cuban revolution, in both its hopes and subsequent disillusionments,” Hollande said in a statement.

The men met in Cuba in 2015, when Hollande made the first visit by a French head of state to Cuba since the revolution.

“France, which condemned human rights abuses in Cuba, had equally challenged the US embargo, and France was glad to see the two countries re-establish dialogue and open ties between themselves,” the Socialist party leader said. China’s official news agency Xinhua paid tribute to his economic vision, although China has a far more open and freewheeling system than Havana controls.

It quoted Castro: “’The people of the Americas want neither freedom without food, nor food without freedom.’

“The Cuban leader was a pioneer in battling the current international economic order, particularly against the capitalist system, neoliberal globalisation, foreign debt and exploitation of natural resources,” the Xinhua report said.

The UK foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, said: “Fidel Castro’s death marks the end of an era for Cuba and the start of a new one for Cuba’s people.”

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi said: “Fidel Castro was one of the most iconic personalities of the 20th century.

India mourns the loss of a great friend. I extend my deepest condolences to the government and people of Cuba on the sad demise of Fidel Castro. May his soul rest in peace.”

A friend of Mexico

Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto said: “Fidel Castro was a friend of Mexico, promoter of a bilateral relationship based on respect, dialogue and solidarity.”

Salvador Sanchez Ceren, president of El Salvador, tweeted: “With deep sorrow we received news of the death of my dear friend and eternal companion, Commander Fidel Castro Ruz. ”

The Spanish foreign ministry released a statement, in which it said: £A figure of great historic importance has gone, a man who brought about a turning point in the country’s evolution and whose great influence was felt across the region.

“As the son of Spanish parents, former President Castro always maintained strong links with Spain and was bound by ties of blood and culture.”

The Nelson Mandela foundation sent its condolences to the people and government of Cuba.

Mandela previously said the Cuban revolution was “a source of inspiration for all those who value freedom”.

“We admire the sacrifices of the Cuban people in maintaining their independence and sovereignty in the face of the vicious imperialist and orchestrated campaign to destroy the awesome force of the Cuban revolution,” he said.

Former cricketer Imran Khan, who ran for the Pakistan presidency in 2013, said: “Today the world lost an iconic revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro, who liberated his nation from all vestiges of imperialism.

“Castro reasserted the Cuban nation’s dignity and self worth that withstood US aggression and became a global leader for anti-colonial struggles.”

Agencies