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Castro: Brutal dictator or people's champion?

US president-elect Donald Trump described Fidel Castro as a "brutal dictator" as politicians from around the world reacted to the death of the Cuban strongman at the age of 90.

Trump laid into the revolutionary's record on human rights and pledged to help Cubans "finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty" after he takes over the world's most powerful post in january.

His statement, which pulled no punches, contrasted with the more measured words of President Obama.

They were among a host of world leaders and British political figures who spoke out after Castro's death.

Mr Trump said: "Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own 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.

"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."

The White House issued a statement from Mr Obama, which offered "condolences to Fidel Castro's family" while at the same time saying "our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people". Mr Obama had attempted rapprochement with the Caribbean state in recent years after decades of trade bans and near all-out-war.

The US president said: "At this time of Fidel Castro's passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people.

"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."

One of the defining leaders of the 20th century, Fidel Castro was seen as both pariah and people's champion.

Speaking in Oxford, Mr Corbyn praised the Cuban revolutionary leader's "heroism" and told the Press Association: "Fidel Castro was a massive figure in the history of the whole planet."

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Mr Castro was a "historic if controversial figure" and his death marked "the end of an era for Cuba and the start of a new one for Cuba's people".

Former London mayor Ken Livingstone said the former Cuban leader was an "absolute giant of the 20th century", and blamed the US for the restrictions on civil liberties under his leadership.

He admitted "of course Fidel did things that were wrong", adding: "Initially he wasn't very good on lesbian and gay rights, but the key things that mattered was that people had a good education, good healthcare and wealth was evenly distributed.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau paid tribute to Castro, who was a friend of his father, with "deep sorrow".

He said: "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'."

Irish president Michael D Higgins was among a host of world leaders who also paid tribute, saying Castro guided Cuba "through a remarkable process of social and political change, advocating a development path that was unique and determinedly independent".

He added: "Fidel Castro will be remembered as a giant among global leaders whose view was not only one of freedom for his people but for all of the oppressed and excluded peoples on the planet."

Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, said: " There is no doubt that Fidel Castro was a vastly significant 20th century leader, but even as we respectfully acknowledge this on his passing, we must not overlook the appalling human rights abuses including brutal summary executions for which he was responsible."


From Belfast Telegraph