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Obama Didn’t ‘Praise’ Castro

Sen. Ted Cruz went too far when he claimed that President Barack Obama praised the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Obama offered neither praise nor criticism in his official statement on Castro’s death.

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Cruz, a Cuban-American, spoke about the Cuban revolutionary leader who died Nov. 25 at the age of 90. The Republican senator from Texas urged Obama not to attend Castro’s funeral or send anyone to represent the United States.

Cruz, Nov. 27: I very much hope that we don’t see any U.S. government officials going to Fidel Castro’s funeral. I hope we don’t see Barack Obama and Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton and Democrats lining up to lionize a murderous tyrant and thug.

If you wouldn’t go to Pol Pot’s funeral or Stalin’s funeral or Mao’s funeral because they were murdering Communist dictators, then you shouldn’t be doing what Barack Obama and Justin Trudeau are doing, which is celebrating Fidel Castro, a murderous communist dictator.

Cruz is right about Trudeau. The Canadian prime minister issued a statement on Castro’s death that praised the former Cuban leader and his policies. In his statement, Trudeau described Castro as a “legendary revolutionary and orator” and praised him for making “significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.”

Trudeau’s statement was widely criticized. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American from Florida, called Trudeau’s statement “shameful and embarrassing.”

In contrast, Obama’s statement was neutral in its description of Castro. The U.S. president, who two years ago began taking steps to normalize U.S. relations with Cuba, stated the obvious without criticizing or praising Castro. Obama said Castro’s death fills Cubans and Cuban-Americans with “powerful emotions,” as they recall “the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation.”

Here is the full statement from the president:

Obama, Nov. 26: At this time of Fidel Castro’s passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. We know that this moment fills Cubans – in Cuba and in the United States – with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.

For nearly six decades, the relationship between the United States and Cuba was marked by discord and profound political disagreements. During my presidency, we have worked hard to put the past behind us, pursuing a future in which the relationship between our two countries is defined not by our differences but by the many things that we share as neighbors and friends – bonds of family, culture, commerce, and common humanity. This engagement includes the contributions of Cuban Americans, who have done so much for our country and who care deeply about their loved ones in Cuba.

Today, we offer condolences to Fidel Castro’s family, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people. In the days ahead, they will recall the past and also look to the future. As they do, the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America.

When we asked the senator’s office what Cruz meant when he said Obama is “celebrating” Castro, we were referred to an op-ed that Cruz wrote for National Review. In it, Cruz criticized world leaders for engaging in a “race … to see which world leader can most fulsomely praise Fidel Castro’s legacy,” singling out Obama and Trudeau by name. But Cruz offered no evidence of praise from Obama. In fact, Cruz criticized Obama not for what he said, but what he did not say.

“Mr. Obama offered his ‘condolences’ to the Cuban people, and blandly suggested that ‘history will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure,” Cruz wrote. “Now, he added, we can ‘look to the future.’ With all due respect to Mr. Obama, the 60 years Fidel Castro spent systematically exploiting and oppressing the people of Cuba provide more than enough history to pass judgment on both Fidel and, now more importantly, his brother Raul.”

It is certainly fair game for Cruz to criticize Obama for ignoring Castro’s history of repression and human rights abuses in Cuba. But Cruz goes too far when he claims that Obama is praising and “celebrating” Castro.