Fidel Castro: Ken Livingstone mentions Hitler while defending Cuban leader as 'absolute giant of 20th Century'

'Of course Fidel did things that were wrong,' says former mayor of London

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The Independent Online

Ken Livingstone has mentioned Hitler while discussing former Cuban president Fidel Castro, who has died at the age of 90.

The former mayor of London defended the controversial socialist revolutionary as he compared the country under Castro's power to Britain in the Second World War.

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“I’ve been [to Cuba] many times, it’s a very open and relaxed society," Mr Livingstone told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. 

"I’m sure they will, over time, move towards something like a traditional West European democracy, but it could have happened a lot earlier if you hadn’t had, the entire time, the blockade by America, attempts to overthrow the regime, eight assassination attempts authorised by American presidents.

“We didn’t have an entirely functioning democracy in World War Two, it was shut down. The general election was cancelled, anyone expressing support for Hitler was thrown into prison.

“If you’re living in a wartime situation, it’s not good for democracy.”

Mr Livingstone, who called Castro an "absolute giant of the 20th Century’" and a "beacon of light all over Latin America", also praised the country’s education and healthcare. 

"Of course Fidel did things that were wrong," he added: “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.”

Castro's death, however, has divided opinion, and has prompted celebrations for Cuban exiles living in Little Havana, Miami. 

Mr Livingstone was suspended from the Labour Party in April this year after stating that Hitler made deals with Zionist Jews in the 1930s. Despite heavy criticism for this, he then repeated his remarks in September this year while speaking with Victoria Derbyshire.