Trudeau defends Castro tribute, calls him a dictator
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stood by the comments he made eulogizing Fidel Castro, but in the face of backlash acknowledged the former Cuban leader was a dictator.
Trudeau’s initial statement praised Castro, whose death at the age of 90 was announced on Friday, as a “legendary revolutionary” and a “remarkable leader.”
“While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro’s supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for ‘el Comandante,'” his statement on Saturday read.
Those comments drew the ire of several conservative politicians in Canada and the US, with American senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio slamming him for glossing over a repressive regime.
Is this a real statement or a parody? Because if this is a real statement from the PM of Canada it is shameful & embarrassing. https://t.co/lFXeqU7Ws0
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) November 26, 2016
This is a sad statement for the leader of a democracy to make: https://t.co/NN959KsMcP
— Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg) November 26, 2016
In Canada, Conservative leadership hopefuls Maxime Bernier and Kellie Leitch also denounced the prime minister’s remarks.
“Cuba’s longest serving President.”
— Maxime Bernier (@MaximeBernier) November 26, 2016
Then the internet got involved, mocking Trudeau’s tribute under the hashtag #trudeaueulogies.
“Mr. Stalin’s greatest achievement was his eradication of obesity in the Ukraine through innovative agricultural reforms.” #TrudeauEulogies
— Melissa Lantsman (@MelissaLantsman) November 26, 2016
“While controversial, Darth Vader achieved great heights in space construction & played a formative role in his son’s life” #trudeaueulogies
— Jason Markusoff (@markusoff) November 26, 2016
Asked by CBC’s Catherine Cullen if he thought Castro was a dictator, Trudeau replied yes.
“There are people who have many memories and who experienced a great deal of difficulty because of what happened in Cuba, and I am not minimizing any of that,” Trudeau said on Sunday, speaking to reporters in Madagascar, where he is attending la Francophonie summit.
“The fact is Fidel Castro had a deep and lasting impact on the Cuban people. He certainly was a polarizing figure and there certainly were concerns around human rights. That’s something that I’m open about and that I’ve highlighted,” he said.
“But on the passing of his death I expressed a statement that highlighted the deep connection between the people of Canada and the people of Cuba.”
Trudeau’s father, the late prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was friends with Castro, who was an honourary pall bearer at his funeral.
— Catherine Cullen (@cath_cullen) November 27, 2016
Cover: Photo by Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press