Canada’s PM Trudeau defends warm remarks about Castro after backlash

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, criticised for fondly remembering Fidel Castro and offering his 'deepest condolences' without mention of his human rights record, defends his comments.

ANTANANARIVO, MADAGASCAR (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, criticised for fondly remembering Fidel Castro without mention of his human rights record, defended his comments on Sunday (Nov 27) and said the late Cuban leader had been a dictator.

Mr Trudeau sparked fury and online mockery after he referred to Mr Castro as a "remarkable leader" and expressed his sorrow at the Friday death of "Cuba's longest serving president".

Many were quick to point out that Mr Castro suppressed dissent and there was no option for other leadership on the island nation under his regime.

"The fact is Fidel Castro had a deep and lasting impact on the Cuban people," Mr Trudeau told reporters in a televised news conference at a Madagascar Francophonie summit.

Mr Trudeau said he had raised the issue of human rights during an official visit to Cuba earlier this month.

Asked whether he thought Castro was a dictator, Mr Trudeau said: "Yes."

Mr Castro was an honorary pallbearer at the 2000 funeral of Mr Trudeau's father, former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, who was the first Nato leader to visit Cuba back in 1976.

Mr Trudeau's initial statement, which was markedly more positive than most Western leaders, sparked a backlash on Saturday, especially among some US Republicans and Cuban exiles in the United States.