The Americas

The 10 most appalling statements by Western leaders praising Fidel Castro

FILE -- Fidel Castro meets with intellectuals and writers at the International Book Fair in Havana, Cuba, on Feb. 10, 2012.

FILE -- Fidel Castro meets with intellectuals and writers at the International Book Fair in Havana, Cuba, on Feb. 10, 2012.  (AP)

Editor's note: The following column originally appeared on AEIdeas.org, the blog of the teAmerican Enterprise Institute.

Fidel Castro was a murderous tyrant who summarily executed dissidents and turned the entire island of Cuba into a tropical gulag. According to the Black Book of Communism – a groundbreaking effort by a group of French scholars to document the human toll of Communism in the 20th century — “From 1959 through the late 1990s more than 100,000 Cubans experienced life in one of [Castro’s] camps, prisons, or open-regime sites. Between 15,000 and 17,000 people were shot.”

But no matter such minor details of history. A panoply of Western leaders who ought to know better have been heaping praise on the dead dictator since his passing this weekend.

Here are the 10 most appalling examples:

1. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:

 

It is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of Cuba’s longest serving President.

Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.

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”.

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.

On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and many, many supporters of Mr. Castro. We join the people of Cuba today in mourning the loss of this remarkable leader.

 

2. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon:

 

The Secretary-General was saddened to learn of the death of Fidel Castro Ruz, former President of Cuba. An emblematic figure of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro was prominent in Latin America and influential in world affairs. As Prime Minister, President, Commander of the Cuban Armed Forces and First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party, his role at the helm of Cuba spanned nearly 50 years, during which he left a major imprint on his country and on global politics.

President Fidel Castro will be remembered for his leadership of the Cuban revolution and for advances in Cuba in the fields of education, literacy and health. His revolutionary ideals left few indifferent. He was a strong voice for social justice in global discussions at the UN General Assembly and international and regional forums. The Secretary-General vividly recalls meeting him during a visit to Cuba in January 2014, and was impressed by the former President’s passion and lively engagement on a wide range of issues.

The Secretary-General extends his condolences to the Cuban people and to the family of the former President, particularly to President Raul Castro.

The Secretary-General hopes Cuba will continue to advance on a path of reform, greater prosperity and human rights. At this time of national mourning, he offers the support of the United Nations to work alongside the Cuban people.

 

3. President Barack Obama:

 

At this time of Fidel Castro’s passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. We know that this moment fills Cubans – in Cuba and in the United States – with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him. … Today, we offer condolences to Fidel Castro’s family, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people. In the days ahead, they 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 the United States of America.

 

4. Secretary of State John Kerry:

 

We extend our condolences to the Cuban people today as they mourn the passing of Fidel Castro. Over more than half a century, he played an outsized role in their lives, and he influenced the direction of regional, even global affairs. As our two countries continue to move forward on the process of normalization — restoring the economic, diplomatic and cultural ties severed by a troubled past — we do so in a spirit of friendship and with an earnest desire not to ignore history but to write a new and better future for our two peoples. The United States reaffirms its support for deepening our engagement with the Cuban people now and in coming years.

 

5. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto:

 

“I regret the death of Fidel Castro Ruz, leader of the Cuban revolution and emblematic symbol of the 20th century.”

 

6. Former President Jimmy Carter:

 

We remember fondly our visits with [Castro] in Cuba and his love of his country.

 

7. Pope Francis:

 

Pope Francis sent a telegram to Raúl Castro, writing, “Upon receiving the sad news of the passing of your beloved brother, the honorable Fidel Castro Ruz, former president of the state council and the government of the Republic of Cuba, I express my sadness to your excellency and all family members of the deceased dignitary, as well as the government and the people in that beloved nation.”

“At the same time,” the pope’s telegram continued, “I offer my prayers for his eternal rest, and I entrust the Cuban people to the maternal intercession of Our Lady of La Caridad del Cobre, patroness of that country.”

 

8. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA):

 

“We need to stop and pause and mourn his loss,” Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said in a phone interview. When she learned the news, Lee said, “I was very sad for the Cuban people. “He led a revolution in Cuba that led social improvements for his people.” In her eight meetings with Castro over the years, Lee said, she found him to be “a smart man. A historian. He wanted normal relations with the United States but not at the expense of the accomplishments of the revolution.”

 

9. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi:

10. British Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn:

 

Fidel Castro’s death marks the passing of a huge figure of modern history, national independence and 20th century socialism. From building a world class health and education system, to Cuba’s record of international solidarity abroad, Castro’s achievements were many. For all his flaws, Castro’s support for Angola played a crucial role in bringing an end to Apartheid in South Africa, and he will be remembered both as an internationalist and a champion of social justice.

 

These democratic leaders should be particularly ashamed to find themselves echoing the praise some of the world’s most brutal despots and mass murderers have heaped on Castro. Consider the company they are keeping:

Xi Jinping and Chinese state news:

 

Chinese President Xi Jinping also sent a telegram to Cuba on Saturday, mourning the loss of a “dear comrade and true friend” of the Chinese people who made “immortal contributions to the development of socialism around the world.” China’s official Xinhua News Agency eulogized a man who “resisted the American superpower for half a century” with the headline: “Old Soldiers Never Die.”

 

Bashar al-Assad:

 

President al-Assad said that the “great” leader Fidel Castro efficiently led the struggle of his country and people against imperialism and hegemony for decades, and that his steadfastness has become an example and an inspiration for leaders and peoples everywhere in the world. “Our friend Cuba was able under his leadership to stand its ground in the face of the most ferocious of sanctions and unfair campaigns witnessed in our modern history,” said the President, adding that Cuba has thus become a beacon for the liberation of the peoples of the South American countries and others around the world. “The name Fidel Castro will live forever in the minds of generations and remain an inspiration for all the peoples who aspire to achieve real independence and liberation from the yoke of colonialism and hegemony,” the President said.

 

Kim Jong Un:

 

Though he passed away, the precious feats he performed will remain forever in the hearts of the peoples of our two countries and the hearts of progressive mankind.”

I express conviction that the revolutionary Cuban people would overcome the pain they suffer from the loss of their distinguished leader and certainly build the prospering ideal society of the people and achieve the victory of the socialist cause under the wise leadership of you, Comrade Raul Castro Ruz, true to the lifetime intention of Comrade Fidel Castro Ruz.”

 

Vladimir Putin:

 

I offer my deepest condolences to you and the entire Cuban nation over the death of your brother, the leader of the Cuban revolution Fidel Castro. The name of this remarkable statesman is rightfully viewed as a symbol of a whole era in modern history. Free and independent Cuba built by him and his fellow revolutionaries has become an influential member of the international community and serves as an inspiring example for many countries and peoples. Fidel Castro was a sincere and reliable friend of Russia. He made a tremendous personal contribution to the establishment and progress of Russian-Cuban relations, close strategic partnership in all areas. This strong and wise man always looked into the future with confidence. He embodied the high ideals of a politician, citizen and patriot who wholeheartedly believed in the cause, to which he devoted his life. Russians will always cherish his memory in their hearts. In this mournful hour, I ask you to pass on my words of sympathy and support to all members of your family. I wish you courage and tenacity as you face this irreparable loss.

 

Here’s some advice for Trudeau and company – when your statements are indistinguishable from those of Bashar al-Assad and Kim Jong Un, maybe it’s time for a little introspection.

Marc Thiessen is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Thiessen served as chief speechwriter to President George W. Bush and to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.