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History will judge Fidel Castro's 'enormous impact', says Obama; Trump calls him a ‘brutal dictator’

Unites States President Barack Obama said in a statement on Fidel Castro's death that history would be the judge of the Cuban revolutionary leader's enormous impact.

India TV News Desk, Washington [ Published on: November 27, 2016 9:15 IST ]
Image Source : AP Fidel Castro died on Friday at the age of 90

Unites States President Barack Obama, who worked towards restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba, on Saturday said in a statement on Fidel Castro's death that history would be the judge of the Cuban revolutionary leader's "enormous impact".

In a statement on the White House's website, Obama also noted that the United States was extending a "hand of friendship to the Cuban people" at the time of the death of Castro, who passed away Friday night at the age of 90.

The US President said Castro altered the lives of his nation and its people in countless ways after taking power in 1959, adding that his death was a moment of "powerful emotions" for Cubans on the Caribbean island and in the United States.

"History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him," Obama said.

Relations between the United States and Cuba were marked for decades by "discord and profound political disagreements", Obama said in the statement, while also recalling the process begun in late 2014 to restore full diplomatic relations with America's Caribbean Cold War enemy.

The goal of normalising ties (embassies were reopened last year) was to pursue "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", the President said.

That engagement has included the contributions of Cuban Americans, "who have done so much for our country and who care deeply about their loved ones in Cuba".

The statement by, President-elect Donald Trump, however, took a more direct approach and called Castro a "brutal dictator".

In a statement on Saturday, Trump said he hoped that Castro's death would usher in a new era of prosperity and freedom for Cuba.

Trump, whose first reaction was a brief tweet on Saturday morning that simply read "Fidel Castro is dead!", issued a full statement a few hours later. 

Castro, who at age 32 led a band of guerrillas who overthrew strongman Fulgencio Batista in 1959 and ruled the country until falling ill and ceding power to his younger brother Raul a decade ago, was a "brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades", Trump said.

"Fidel Castro's legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights," the real-estate mogul 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," Trump said.

Trump, who is spending the Thanksgiving holiday at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, has vowed to rollback recent US policy establishing a thaw in bilateral relations unless "freedoms are restored" on the Communist-ruled island.

Trump was the only Republican candidate in the primaries who supported the rapprochement with Cuba that Washington first announced in late 2014, although he shifted course and vowed on Twitter last month to revoke Obama's executive orders normalising relations.

Castro's death comes at a time when the United States, under Obama, has taken steps to ease the decades-old US economic embargo on the Communist-ruled island.

The embargo, imposed in 1962, can only be lifted by the US Congress.

In March, Obama became the first sitting US President to visit Cuba in 88 years. During his stay on the island, he met with President Raul Castro - the revolutionary leader's younger brother, who has led the country for a decade -- but not with Fidel.

Obama issued a presidential policy directive in October aimed at making the US opening toward Cuba "irreversible", although his successor in the White House -- Republican Donald Trump, who will take office in January -- pledged during the campaign to rollback the US-Cuban thaw until "freedoms are restored" on the Communist-ruled island.

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