- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 26, 2016

As American lawmakers by and large reflected on Fidel Castro’s passing Friday by recalling the negative impact of his decades-long dictatorship, internationally his death has prompted mournful reactions from foreign officials who hold drastically different opinions of the longtime Cuban leader.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a telegram Saturday to Havana on Saturday calling Castro an “outstanding statesman” who helped build a “free and independent Cuba.”

“This strong and wise man always looked with confidence to the future. He embodies the highest ideals of politics, citizen and patriot, sincerely convinced of the rightness of the case, which gave his whole life. The memory of him will live forever in the hearts of Russian citizens,” Mr. Putin wrote.

“Fidel Castro was a sincere and reliable friend of Russia,” Mr. Putin wrote.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, meanwhile, applauded Castro’s “immortal historical contributions to the development of socialism around the world,” the Associated Press reported.

“With his death, the Chinese people have lost a close comrade and a sincere friend. His glorious image and great achievements will be recorded in history forever,” he said during an address broadcast by state television.

While Russia and China’s history of communism has made either nation a natural ally of Cuba, Castro’s passing nonetheless prompted leaders from Western countries including Canada and Mexico to respond with praise.

“Fidel Castro was 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,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement Saturday.

“Fidel Castro was a friend of Mexico, promoter of a bilateral relationship based on respect, dialogue and solidarity,” said Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Foreign leaders who hailed Castro’s stint as Cuban leader offered starkly different reactions from those offered domestically, especially when compared with how Cuban-American members of the U.S. House and Senate responded to reports of his passing.

“A tyrant is dead,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican and the first Cuban-American elected to Congress. “Today, Cubans are one step closer to achieving freedom,” said Sen. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat and the third Hispanic American to serve in the U.S. Senate.

President Obama, whose administration has rolled back decades-old trade restrictions imposed against Castro’s regime, said in a statement Saturday that “History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.”

Fidel Castro died Friday at the age of 90, his brother Raul Castro announced on state television. He’s scheduled to be cremated on Saturday, with a funeral scheduled for Dec. 4 in Santiago de Cuba following eight days of national mourning.

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