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Obama Has Offered A More Nuanced View Of Fidel Castro's Legacy

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Obama Has Offered A More Nuanced View Of Fidel Castro's Legacy

Earlier today the president-elect of the USA, Donald Trump, offered an inflammatory response to the Cuban leader's death, decrying his legacy as "one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights."

However, US President Barack Obama, whose presidency has seen a thawing of US and Cuban trade-relations and political disagreements following five decades of cold communication, offered a more conciliatory view of the leader, saying history would judge Castro's 'enormous impact'.

Obama said in a statement: "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 neighbours 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.

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Pope Francis meets Fidel Castro in Havana in 2015. Credit: PA

"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."

In March Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Cuba in 88 years, with the sojourn seen as a benchmark of the sitting-president's foreign policy legacy. However, Trump's statement released earlier today, which followed a tweet that simply read 'Fidel Castro is dead!', appeared to mark a reversion to pre-Obama foreign relations with the country that sits just 90 miles from the coast of Florida.

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Fidel Castro and African leader Nelson Mandela in 1991. Credit: PA

"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.

"Though the tragedies, deaths and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey towards prosperity and liberty."

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Elsewhere, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his country mourned the death of a "great friend," and French President Francois Hollande branded Castro "a towering figure," while noting concerns about human rights under the revolutionary's regime.

Castro smokes a cigar in 1974. Credit: PA

Despite his achievements in bringing universal healthcare to the country and improving literacy rates, many commentators have drawn attention to human rights abuses that took place under his regime, including state-led persecution of 'homosexuals, religious believers, and deviants'.

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Announcing his death on state television, President Raul Castro, his brother, declared nine days of national mourning with the burial ceremony to be held 4 December. He is being cremated imminently.

Featured image credit: PA Images

Topics: Death, Obama, Trump, 2016, politics

James Dawson
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