World Leaders Split Between Praise and Derision of Castro

'Fidel Castrol is dead!' tweeted Trump, though Putin had more accolades for Castro in life.

This file photo taken on July 26, 2006 shows Fidel Castro in the city of Holguin, 700Km from Havana, during the inaguration of an electricity generating plant.
Adalberto Roque

World leaders paid tribute on Saturday to Fidel Castro, the Cuban revolutionary leader who built a communist state on the doorstep of the United States, but in death, just as in life, he divided opinion, and critics labelled him a "tyrant."

After initially tweeting simply that "Fidel Castro is dead!", U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said that his administration would "do all it can" once it takes office on January 20 to help boost freedom and prosperity for Cuban people.

Trump had threatened late in his upstart campaign for the White House that concerns about religious freedom in Cuba could prompt him to reverse President Barack Obama's moves to open relations with the Cold War adversary after more than a half-century's estrangement. 

Obama said this was an emotional moment for Cubans and Cuban-Americans and offered condolences to Castro's family. 

"At this time of Fidel Castro's passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people," he said in a statement, noting his administration had, "worked hard to put the past behind us." 

"Though the tragedies, deaths and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty," Trump said in a statement issued from his West Palm Beach, Florida, resort where he and his family are spending the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. 

"While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve," he added. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his condolences after Castro's death, saying that, "The free and independent Cuba, built by him and his comrades, has become an influential member of international society and served as an inspiring example for many countries and people. Fidel Castro was a frank and tried and true friend of Russia. He has made a great contribution into establishing and developing of Russo-Cuban ties, close strategic cooperation in all the spheres."

Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a statement that "the Chinese people have lost a close comrade and a sincere friend."

Xi hailed Castro for his contribution to the development of communism both in Cuba and around the world. 

Syrian President Bashar Assad was particularly praising in a telegram to the Cuban leadership, saying, "Cuba, our friend, managed under his leadership to withstand the strongest sanctions and oppressive campaigns witnessed in our recent history, becoming a beacon of liberation for the people of South America, and the people of the entire world. Fidel Castro's name will live forever in the minds of generations and will inspire those aspiring to true independence and liberation from the yoke of colonialism and hegemony." 

The Turkish foreign ministry said Castro "left a legacy of values and ideals that will set a path for the young generations in Cuba."

"The struggle to which he dedicated his life aroused respect, even in different political camps, and resounded not just in Cuba but around the world. He stood up against global injustice and worked for the establishment of a world with greater equality and solidarity," it said in a statement. 

In a telegram to Raul Castro, Lebanese President Michel Aoun said that, "The commander of the Cuban revolution left for almost a century a mark on the world's conscience thanks to his long experience, his power to persuade and the esteem with which he was beheld, so that his political attitudes and national debates became a unique approach of its own." 

"Fidel Castro's memory will remain an impetus for Cuba's present and future."