Like Che Guevara, his second-in-command in the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro, sporting his trademark bushy beard, green fatigues and fat cigar, became something of a pop icon and cult favorite among leftists everywhere. It was a status that endured, despite the suffering his tyrannical rule of Cuba brought to many of his people.
It turns out students and radical intellectuals aren’t the only Castro fanboys. His death on Friday night (Nov. 24) was greeted with a gush of approbation from global leaders.
Expressing his condolences for Cuba’s government and its people, Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister had this to say:
South African president, Jacob Zuma hailed Castro’s dedication “to Cuban freedom and sovereignty,” and also to “the freedom of other oppressed people around the world.”
Enrique Pena Nieto, Mexico’s president, mourned the loss of a “great friend.”
And Venzuela’s president Nicolás Maduro tweeted: “To all the revolutionaries of the world, we have to continue with his legacy and his flag of independence, of socialism, of homeland.”
Over in Europe, Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, was no less appreciative, if a little more arm’s length in his praise:
UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon recalled a “lively discussion” with Castro during a visit to Cuba in 2014:
“President Fidel Castro will be remembered for his leadership of the Cuban revolution and for advances in Cuba in the fields of education, literacy and health. His revolutionary ideals left few indifferent. He was a strong voice for social justice in global discussions at the UN General Assembly and international and regional forums. The Secretary-General vividly recalls meeting him during a visit to Cuba in January 2014, and was impressed by the former President’s passion and lively engagement on a wide range of issues.”
Russia’s president Vladimir Putin noted Russia’s special relationship with the Cuban leader, and added, “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.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping hailed Castro as a “great leader” for the Cuban people and said China had lost “an intimate and sincere friend,” according to a statement read out on Chinese state TV.
“He achieved immortal historical achievements for the development of world socialism. He was the great person of our era, and people and history will remember him,” Xi said. “Great Castro will live forever. “
Even Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, got in on the act. Calling him a “remarkable leader,” Trudeau said:
“A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.
While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro’s supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for “el Comandante.”
I know my father was very proud to call him a friend and I had the opportunity to meet Fidel when my father passed away. It was also a real honour to meet his three sons and his brother President Raúl Castro during my recent visit to Cuba.”
The EU’s trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmstrom, didn’t know what to make of it all:
In the US, leaders mostly struck a more measured tone. President Obama threaded the needle by noting:
“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. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.”
British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson also struck a note of diplomacy:
President elect Donald Trump didn’t have much to say about Castro’s death, one way or the other, unless one chooses to interpret his use of an exclamation point: