What happened?

The Cuban dictator Fidel Castro died at the age of 90. Castro became an icon of revolution in 1959 when he and his supporters Deposed the previous dictator, Fulgencio Batista. Castro’s long rule saw Cuba draw close to the Soviet Union and fiercely oppose the United States. He also imprisoned and tortured his political enemies. In 1998, John Paul II accepted an invitation to Cuba and publicly criticised its human rights abuses. Castro had stepped down as leader in 2008.

What commentators are saying

Two politicians provoked consternation with their tributes to the dictator. Canadian President Justin Trudeau called Castro “a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.” Likewise, Jeremy Corbyn paid tribute to a “massive figure” who had showed “heroism” in his youth.

The Cuban-born historian Carlos Eire wrote in the Washington Post that Castro’s supporters showed “gullibility”. Castro’s reputation, he said, should be defined by his many crimes: that, for instance, he “was responsible for so many thousands of executions and disappearances in Cuba that a precise number is hard to reckon”; that he “claimed all property for himself and his henchmen, strangled food production and impoverished the vast majority of his people”; and “established an apartheid society in which millions of foreign visitors enjoyed rights and privileges forbidden to his people”.

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