“Fidel Castro is dead!” That was all President-elect Donald Trump shared on Twitter Saturday morning after news broke of the former Cuban President, who died Friday at the age of 90. Later, after receiving criticism for the brief reaction, he released a lengthier statement in which he called Castro “a brutal dictator.”
“Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades,” the statement began. “Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty, and the denial of fundamental human rights. 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 continued, “Though the tragedies, death, 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. I join the many Cuban Americans who supported me so greatly in the presidential campaign, including the Brigade 2506 Veterans Association that endorsed me, with the hope of one day soon seeing a free Cuba.”
During his presidential campaign, Trump had promised his supporters to roll back President Barack Obama’s Cuban policy reforms, which reopened relations between the U.S. and Cuba after half a century. “The next president can reverse them, and that I will do unless the Castro regime meets our demands,” Trump said during a Miami rally in September.
Castro introduced a Communist revolution to Cuba in 1959, which his supporters saw as giving the country back to the people. A great deal more saw him as a dictator, one who defied the U.S. for decades and survived multiple assassination attempts (many of which were by the CIA). His younger brother, Raúl, formally succeeded him in 2008.
President Obama released a statement on Castro’s passing in which he and the government “extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people.”
“For nearly six decades, the relationship between the United States and Cuba was marked by discord and profound political disagreements,” the statement reads. “During my presidency, we have worked hard to put the past behind us, pursuing a future in which the relationship between our two countries is defined not by our differences but by the many things that we share as neighbors and friends – bonds of family, culture, commerce, and common humanity.”
Read his full statement below.
See more reactions to Castro’s death.