Since it was announced over Cuban state media late Friday night that communist leader Fidel Castro had died at the age of 90, reactions have poured in from world leaders and politicians. As one of the most controversial and polarizing leaders in modern history, Castro left behind a highly mixed (to put it mildly) legacy, with both celebrations and mourning breaking out in response to his death. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's response to Castro's death has prompted its own controversy.
The Canadian prime minister issued a statement Saturday, saying he had learned of Castro's death with "deep sorrow." He referred to Castro as a "larger than life figure" and praised the dictator for making "significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation." Trudeau went on to say in the statement:
While a controversial figure, both Mr.Castro’s supporters and detractors recognize his tremendous dedication and love the Cuban people who had a need and lasting affection for ‘El Comandante.'
Here's the thing: although Castro was certainly beloved by many, he oversaw an infamously oppressive regime, jailing any of his countrymen who did not fall in line. As the Washington Post's Kevin Sullivan and J.Y. Smith noted in their Castro obituary, "He was among the world’s most repressive leaders, a self-appointed president-for-life who banned free speech, freedom of assembly and a free press and executed or jailed thousands of political opponents."
For the Cuban exiles who fled their homeland, Trudeau's brief reference to Castro as a "controversial figure" shamefully glosses over the victims of his regime. CBC panelist Jonathan Kay called out Trudeau's oversight, tweeting:
As The Atlantic's editor-in-chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, tweeted "It is true that Fidel Castro raised literacy rates across Cuba. It is also true that he severely restricted what the people could read."
The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens slammed Trudeau for his praiseworthy tribute to Castro, calling it a "disgraceful statement."
While Canada had a far warmer relationship with Cuba under Castro than the United States did, Trudeau's response to the dictator's passing woefully overlooks the victims and repression of his nearly 50 years of iron-grip rule.