President Obama, who two years ago ended a decades-long US embargo of Cuba, said history will judge the “enormous impact” of dictator Fidel Castro.
“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,” Obama said in a Saturday statement.
Castro, whose brutal regime executed thousands of innocents over the years, jailed political dissidents and sent those desperate to escape fleeing by any means they could,died Friday night, his brother Raul announced. He was 90.
“History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him,” said Obama.
In a noted understatement, Obama characterized the often tense relationship between the United States and Cuba, which included a brief but intense flirtation with nuclear arms in the 1960s and a more than 50-year economic embargo of the island nation, as a relationship “marked by discord and profound political disagreements.”
“During my presidency, we have worked hard to put the past behind us,” according to the statement, in which Obama extended condolences to Castro’s family and made clear “the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America.”
Critics including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, whose parents fled Castro’s repressive regime, were quick to blast Obama for the warm tone of his statement.
“President Obama issued a pathetic statement on death of dictator #FidelCastro with no mention of thousands he killed & imprisoned,” Rubio tweeted.