While news of Fidel Castro's death spurred leaders around the world to issue messages of condolence, not every politician felt the leader of the Cuban revolution should be remembered with fondness. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio called Castro an "evil, murderous dictator" in a strongly-worded statement Saturday that warned against romanticizing the Cuban leader's legacy.
"Fidel Castro seized power promising to bring freedom and prosperity to Cuba, but his communist regime turned it into an impoverished island prison," Rubio said in a statement released by his office. "Over six decades, millions of Cubans were forced to flee their own country, and those accused of opposing the regime were routinely jailed and even killed."
Rubio's parents reportedly left Cuba for the United States in May of 1956, nearly three years before Castro's armed revolution against dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959. Throughout his political career, Rubio has periodically referred to himself as the "son of exiles," railing against Castro's authoritarian regime.
"Sadly, Fidel Castro's death does not mean freedom for the Cuban people or justice for the democratic activists, religious leaders, and political opponents he and his brother have jailed and persecuted," Rubio, who was born in Miami, Florida, in 1971 said. "The dictator has died, but the dictatorship has not. And one thing is clear, history will not absolve Fidel Castro; it will remember him as an evil, murderous dictator who inflicted misery and suffering on his own people."
The Florida senator echoed a similar message in an interview with Fox News when asked if he thought American representatives should be sent to attend Castro's funeral. "If you send a representative of the Obama administration and the U.S. government to that funeral, you are sending someone to a funeral of a man who ordered the execution of Americans, including the Brothers to the Rescue," Rubio said. "So you are basically sending high-ranking officials to the funeral of a man who murdered American citizens less than 20 years ago, who's families have gotten judgments against the Cuban government in U.S. court and who still live in south Florida and would painfully have to watch that. I would hope that they would send no one to the funeral because while you may want to open up to Cuba, there's no reason we should be opening up to Fidel Castro's legacy of anti-Americanism, of murder, of dictatorship, of imprisonment, of exile."
Rubio also took to his official Twitter account to criticize a statement on Castro's death issued by President Barack Obama, calling it "a pathetic statement... with no mention of thousands he killed and imprisoned."