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Nov 26 2016
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REPORT: Leaders pay tribute to Fidel Castro, but critics scathing of "tyrant"

publishing date: 26/11/2016 06:10:50
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World leaders paid tribute on Saturday to Fidel Castro, the Cuban revolutionary leader who built a communist state on the doorstep of the United States, but in death just as in life he divided opinion, and critics labelled him a "tyrant".

 
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Castro died on Friday aged 90, his younger brother and successor Raul Castro announced on state television.

 

Mikhail Gorbachev, the final leader of the Soviet Union which had long acted as an economic and political prop for Cuba, said Castro left a lasting mark on his country and on world history.

 

In a telegram of condolence to Raul Castro, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the late leader an "inspiring example for many countries".

 

In Venezuela, a long-time ally of Cuba and staunch opponent of the political stance of the United States, President Nicolas Maduro said Castro had inspired and would continue to inspire his country.

 

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said: "A great has left us. Fidel has died. Long live Cuba! Long live Latin America!"

 

South African President Jacob Zuma had similar warm words, thanking the Cuban leader for his help and support in the struggle to overthrow apartheid.

 

French President Francois Hollande mourned the loss of a major figure on the world stage and welcomed the rapprochement between Havana and Washington, while noting concerns over human rights under the Castro regime.

 

"Fidel Castro was a towering figure of the 20th century. He incarnated the Cuban revolution, in both its hopes and subsequent disillusionments," Hollande said in a statement.

 

"France, which condemned human rights abuses in Cuba, had equally challenged the US embargo on Cuba, and France was glad to see the two countries re-establish dialogue and open ties between themselves," added the Socialist party leader.

 

In contrast, the reaction from some Cubans living in the United States was scathing and celebratory.

 

 US Congress representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban-American Republican from Miami, said in a statement: "A tyrant is dead and a new beginning can dawn on the last remaining communist bastion of the Western Hemisphere."

 

In Miami, in the area surrounding the Versailles Restaurant where many exiles who fled the Cuban revolution live, people took to the streets in their cars in the early hours of Saturday morning to celebrate Castro's death.

 

Hundreds of people gathered waving flags, banging pots and pans and carrying umbrellas to shield them from steady rainfall.

 

"This is the happiest day of my life, Cubans are finally free," said Orlidia Montells, an 84-year-old woman.

 
 
REUTERS
 
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