Justin Trudeau draws criticism for praising Fidel Castro as 'remarkable leader'

The Canadian Prime Minister commends the late Cuban leader as a 'legendary revolutionary and orator' 

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The Independent Online

While the majority of world leaders dished out lukewarm tributes to Fidel Castro or skirted around the subject of his legacy, Justin Trudeau’s reaction to the death of the former Cuban leader was pointedly warm. 

In turn, the Canadian Prime Minister has drawn criticism for praising the former Cuban leader and revolutionary who died at the age of 90 on Friday.

Known as Fidel to both friends and foes, Castro split public opinion in life and death and leaves behind a massively divided legacy. While the firebrand leader gained support for bringing universal free education and healthcare to Cuba, his opponents criticise his human rights record and say he suppressed dissent.

Mr Trudeau hailed Castro as a "remarkable leader" and a “legendary revolutionary and orator” in a statement and warmly recalled his late father’s friendship with Castro.

“While a controversial figure, both Mr Castro’s supporters and detractors recognised his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for “el Comandante,” he said.

“I know my father was very proud to call him a friend and I had the opportunity to meet Fidel when my father passed away. It was also a real honour to meet his three sons and his brother President Raúl Castro during my recent visit to Cuba.”

Mr Trudeau has drawn criticism from some politicians for his positive tribute and has also been subject to the wrath of Twitter. 

US Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who is of Cuban descent, suggested the leader’s comments were “shameful and embarrassing” and questioned whether the statement was real or a parody.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, another Cuban-American, said his statement was “disgraceful” and accused him of “slobbering adulation” of Castro. 

In the opposition Conservative Party in Canada, Kellie Leitch, who is running for the party’s leadership, criticised him for his “fawning characterisation” of Castro.

Despite the fact that the politician often appears impervious to social media criticism, the tribute gave rise to the Twitter hashtag #TrudeauEulogies. It immediately started trending on the social media site, with people mocking his genial tone.

“Today we say goodbye to Mr Mussolini, the former Italian prime minister best known for his competent train-management," said one.

Castro was an honorary pallbearer at the funeral of Trudeau’s father and former prime minister Pierre Trudeau in 2000. His father was the first leader of a Nato member state to visit communist Cuba in 1976.

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