Fidel Castro dead: President Obama says history will judge Cuban revolutionary

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The Independent Online

President Barack Obama has said history will judge the late Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro in a statement marking his death. 

In a trial for a rebel attack on the Moncada Barracks in 1953 from which Castro launched the Cuban revolution, he famously told the court: “Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me.”

“History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him,” the out-going President said in a statement issued on Saturday. 

World leaders have issued mournful statements paying tribute to Castro’s death since it was announced by his brother this morning. The closest any have come to criticising his leadership was in the statement issued by the French President Francois Hollande, who described him as a "towering" figure but also noted concerns over his regime’s human rights record. Canadian President Justin Trudeau issued a statement commending Castro as a “legendary revolutionary and orator" and Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad sent his condolences to Raul Castro, declaring his brother an “inspiration”.

Mr Obama has said he “worked hard” as a President to foster a new relationship with Cuba and “put the past behind us” after  the “discord and profound political disagreements” that marked the relationship between the US and Cuba after Castro overthrew the government almost six decades ago. 

As they process his death, he said Cubans “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 America. 

The human rights organisation Amnesty International said Castro was a progressive but “deeply flawed” leader. 

“Access to public services such as health and education for Cubans were substantially improved by the Cuban revolution and for this, his leadership must be applauded. However, despite these achievements in areas of social policy, Fidel Castro’s reign was characterised by a ruthless suppression of freedom of expression.

“The state of freedom of expression in Cuba, where activists continue to face arrest and harassment for speaking out against the government, is Fidel Castro’s darkest legacy.”