Obama, World Leaders Respond To Fidel Castro's Death

Flowers, a t-shirt with an inscription reading 'Viva Fidel' and a cigar are left as a tribute to the late Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro outside the country's embassy in Moscow on November 26, 2016. / AFP / Vasily MAXIMOV (Photo credit should read VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images

Cuban leader and political revolutionary Fidel Castro died Friday, Nov. 25 at the age of 90. The controversial politician, who under his leadership transformed Cuba into a one-party socialist state, had long been an antagonistic figure in U.S. politics, and his actions have been condemned by 11 U.S. presidents over the last six decades. President Obama reacted to Castro's death Saturday by acknowledging that painful history between the United States and Cuba.

"For six decades, the relationship between the United States and Cuba was marked by discord and profound disagreements," Obama said in a statement released by the White House. "[W]e 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 we share as neighbors and friends."

While Obama framed Castro's passing through the lens of Cuban Americans and U.S.-Cuba relations, other world leaders placed Castro in a positive light. World leaders Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to Castro's death with a mix of reverence and sadness.

In a statement released by the Kremlin, Putin praised Castro as an inspiring revolutionary and "a reliable friend of Russia." The two world leaders met together numerous times over the course of Putin's presidency, and Putin traveled to Castro's home in 2014. 

"He made a tremendous personal contribution to the establishment and progress of Russian-Cuban relations, close strategic partnership in all areas," Putin said Saturday. 

The Russian president added in his statement:

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. ... 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.

Putin wasn't the only world leader to call Castro a "great friend." Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted a tweet on Saturday emphasizing the long friendship between Cuba and India. He also praised Castro as an "iconic personality."

[Twitter Embed: https://twitter.com/narendramodi/status/802406549775847424]

Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a message released on state television that Castro's influence will live on forever, according to the Tasnim News Agency. "The Chinese people have lost a good and true comrade," Xi said. "Comrade Castro will live forever."

Leaders of several Latin American countries that were inspired by Castro in the 1960s to attempt similar revolutions thanked the Cuban revolutionary and promised to maintain his legacy. "Fidel Castro left us a legacy of having fought for the integration of the world's peoples," Bolivian President Evo Morales said Saturday in a statement, Reuters reported. "The departure of Comandante Fidel Castro really hurts."

"A great has left us," added Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa. "Fidel has died. Long live Cuba! Long live Latin America!"

And in South Africa, where anti-apartheid revolutionaries were backed by Cuba and the former USSR, President Jacob Zuma thanked Castro in his help in ending the authoritarian apartheid regime. "President Castro identified with our struggle against apartheid," Zuma said Saturday in a statement. "He inspired the Cuban people to join us in our own struggle against apartheid."

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