The reactions of world leaders to Castro’s passing ran an extraordinary spectrum of views. China’s communist government predictably praised him for his contributions to the global “socialist” movement. Russia’s Vladimir Putin expressed condolences and described Castro as a reliable friend of Moscow’s, both during the Soviet era and in the post‐Soviet period.
President Obama’s lengthy statement was a textbook example of trying to avoid saying anything that would offend Raul Castro’s government and derail the cautiously improving ties between the United States, yet protect Obama from charges that he was sympathetic to a communist tyrant.
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.
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.
But Obama’s statement was an example of brutal realism compared to the naïve tribute that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed. Trudeau praised Castro as a “remarkable leader” who greatly improved Cuba’s health care and educational systems. That would have been a myopic comment coming from an ordinary Canadian citizen. Coming from the prime minister, it was utterly inexcusable. Even viewed within its own context, it ignored the fact that the vaunted educational system (which did improve the island’s literacy rate) was simply one cog in a massive system to indoctrinate children in the alleged virtues of Marxism‐Leninism. Worse, Trudeau ignored Fidel Castro’s horrid human rights record. Castro was a man who murdered thousands of political dissidents, imprisoned tens of thousands in a tropical gulag, and forced millions to flee their homeland.