Fidel Castro’s death provoked mixed reactions from Cubans and political leaders around the world, including President Barack Obama, President-elect Donald Trump and Russian President Vladmir Putin. Castro was both reviled and revered, making Saturday a day of celebration and mourning. Lisa Desjardins reports.
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LISA DESJARDINS, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND:
Fidel Castro ruled the island of Cuba with an iron fist for almost half a century, handing power over to his brother eight years ago.
Cubans called him simply "Fidel" — he was a thorn in the side of ten American presidents, a defiant communist allied with the Soviet Union in the Cold War.
And a dictator who imprisoned and killed his enemies and drove a million of his citizens to flee.
Castro was the father of a revolution that delivered healthcare and education to his people but deprived them of a better quality of life by most other measures….and most of all, political freedom.
Late last night, President Raul Castro went on Cuban state television to announce the death of his older brother and predecessor, but he gave no cause. Fidel Castro had suffered from an intestinal disease for over a decade. Raul Castro announced nine days of national mourning and said his brother would be cremated, with his ashes interred in the city of Santiago, near where he grew up.
In Havana, flags are at half-staff, and the mood has been somber. The streets largely empty of people and traffic.
President Barack Obama, expressed his condolences to the Castro family. Mr. Obama, who began a process to normalize relations with Cuba two years ago and visited Cuba this year, added, "The Cuban people must know they have a friend and partner in the United States of America."
President-elect Donald Trump called Castro a "brutal dictator who oppressed his own people."
Mr. Trump said, "Though the tragedies, deaths, and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty."
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said, "Now that Fidel Castro is dead, the cruelty and oppression of his regime should die with him."
By contrast, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Castro had been, quote, "…an inspiring example to many countries."
China's communist leader, Xi Jinping, said, "The Chinese people have lost a close comrade and a sincere friend."
And Bolivia's socialist president, Evo Morales, said Castro was, quote, "…the leader who taught us to fight for the sovereignty of the state and the dignity of the peoples of the world."
At the Vatican, Pope Francis, who helped broker the restoration of U.S.-Cuban relations, said Castro's death was "sad news" and offered his prayers for the nation.
And in the section of Miami known as "Little Havana," thousands of Cuban-Americans took to the streets to celebrate Castro's death, chanting, "cuba si, castro no."
"I guess I shouldn't be happy, because a person has died, but he separated my family. My parents never got to see Cuba again. So today, I rejoice for this."
Cuban-American congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said, "A tyrant is dead."
"the streets are so joyous because several generations of Cubans are celebrating the death of a dictator. not the death of a human being, but the death of a dictator."