WASHINGTON – U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said in a statement on Saturday following Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro’s death that he hoped the passing of the “brutal dictator” would usher in a new era of prosperity and freedom for the Caribbean island.
Trump – whose first reaction was a brief tweet Saturday morning that simply read “Fidel Castro is dead!” – issued a full statement a few hours later.
Castro, who at age 32 led a band of guerrillas who overthrew strongman Fulgencio Batista in 1959 and ruled the country until falling ill and ceding power to his younger brother Raul a decade ago, was a “brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades,” Trump said.
“Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights,” the real-estate mogul said.
“While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve,” Trump said.
Trump, who is spending the Thanksgiving holiday at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, has vowed to roll back recent U.S. policy establishing a thaw in bilateral relations unless “freedoms are restored” on the Communist-ruled island.
Trump was the only Republican candidate in the primaries who supported the rapprochement with Cuba that Washington first announced in late 2014, although he shifted course and vowed on Twitter last month to revoke Obama’s executive orders normalizing relations.
Some analysts – including, in a recent interview with EFE, prominent American intellectual Noam Chomsky – say the real-estate mogul will need to temper his hard-line approach due to pressure from U.S. corporations eager to do business on the island in fields such as biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, agribusiness and tourism.
Castro’s death comes at a time when the United States, under Obama, has taken steps to ease the decades-old U.S. economic embargo on the Communist-ruled island.
The embargo, imposed in 1962, can only be lifted by the U.S. Congress.