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World leaders react as Cuba prepares for Fidel Castro's funeral

By Daniel Uria
1/5
World leaders react as Cuba prepares for Fidel Castro's funeral
Cuban President Fidel Castro is pictured in this July 26, 1984 file photo during celebrations in Cienfuegos, Cuba marking the 31st anniversary of the start of the Cuban Revolution. Castro died on Friday night at the age of 90, prompting waves of celebration and mourning from world leaders and Cuban exiles throughout the world. File Photo by UPI | License Photo

HAVANA, Nov. 26 (UPI) -- Cubans and world leaders supplied a mixture of celebration and mourning following the death of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro on Friday night.

The cause of the 90-year-old communist leader's death was not revealed, as Castro was to be cremated early Saturday in advance of nine days of national mourning before his funeral in the city of Santiago de Cuba on Dec. 4, CNN reported.

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"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," U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement. "History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him."

Obama offered condolences for Castro's family and prayers for the Cuban people while reflecting on U.S.-Cuba relations.

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"For nearly six decades, the relationship between the United States and Cuba was marked by discord and profound political disagreements," he said. "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."

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U.S. President-elect Donald Trump initially reacted to the news Saturday morning by simply tweeting "Fidel Castro is dead!"

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Hours after his initial reaction Trump released a statement condemning Castro as a Tyrant, according to CNN.

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"Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades," he said. "Fidel Castro's legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights. 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."

Vice President-elect Mike Pence shared a similar message, celebrating Castro's death.

"The tyrant Castro is dead. New hope dawns," he said. "We will stand with the oppressed Cuban people for a free and democratic Cuba. Viva Cuba Libre!"

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Mike Hernandez, a spokesperson for Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, said Trump called the mayor regarding Castro's death.

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"Can confirm that Mayor Gimenez spoke with President-Elect Donald Trump regarding the passing of Fidel Castro," he said. "The President-elect expressed his support for and solidarity with the Cuban-American community."

Public and military establishments in Cuba will fly the flag at half-staff during the nine-day mourning period, as all activities and public performances will come to a halt and radio and television will be dedicated to patriotic and historical programming.

People in Castro's hometown of Biran knocked on the door of his half-brother Martin Castro to see if news of his death was true.

"They have been knocking and calling and asking if it is true," Castro's nephew Angel Daniel Castro said. "Many people are crying. Some complain of high blood pressure. Fidel was a good man."

Cuban-Americans in Miami flooded the streets in celebration, shutting down "Calle Ocho" near iconic Cuban restaurant Versailles, waving Cuban flags, honking car horns and banging pots and pans, The Miami Herald reported.

"This is the moment that so many in our community have been waiting for since I can remember, since I was a child," U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo said. "Everyone's been waiting for this moment because they believed it would be the beginning of the end of the nightmare, and I think that's exactly what this is: the opening of a door to a brighter future."

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U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson echoed Curbelo's sentiments of a new beginning for the people of Cuba.

"Fidel Castro's death marks the end of an era for Cuba and the start of a new one for Cuba's people," he wrote on Twitter.

Many heads of state throughout the world mourned Castro's passing and shared words of praise for the revolutionary leader.

Russian President Vladimir Putin released a statement hailing Castro as a "sincere and reliable friend of Russia" and praising his work to build relations between the two countries.

"I offer my deepest condolences to you and the entire Cuban nation over the death of your brother, the leader of the Cuban revolution Fidel Castro," he said.

Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev recalled his last phone call with Castro in August and remarked he "lived a great life, full of events and challenges," in a Facebook post.

"Without exaggeration, a whole era of history is gone with Fidel Castro," he said. "I will treasure memories of my meetings with this remarkable man."

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"The Chinese people have lost a good and true comrade. Comrade Castro will live forever," Chinese President Xi Jinping said.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro also shared his condolences on Twitter and said "revolutionaries of the world must follow his legacy."

Pope Francis sent Raul Castro a telegram expressing sadness and hope for the country, according to ABC News.

"Upon receiving the sad news of the passing of your beloved brother, the honorable Fidel Castro Ruz, former president of the state council and the government of the Republic of Cuba, I express my sadness to your excellency and all family members of the deceased dignitary, as well as the government and the people in that beloved nation. At the same time, I offer my prayers for his eternal rest, and I entrust the Cuban people to the maternal intercession of Our Lady of La Caridad del Cobre, patroness of that country," he said.

Canadian Prime Minister also offered praise and condolences for the "controversial" Cuban leader.

"While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro's supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for 'el Comandante,'" he said. "I know my father was very proud to call him a friend and I had the opportunity to meet Fidel when my father passed away. It was also a real honour to meet his three sons and his brother President Raul Castro during my recent visit to Cuba."

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French President Francois Hollande mourned the loss of Castro as a "towering" figure, while also acknowledging issues of human rights in Cuba as well as the country's relationship with the United States.

"France, which condemned human rights abuses in Cuba, had equally challenged the U.S. embargo on Cuba, and France was glad to see the two countries re-establish dialogue and open ties between themselves," he said.

Others criticized Castro as a tyrannical dictator and accused him of abusing the human rights of the cuban people.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz praised those who survived and fought against Castro's regime and offered condolences for those who died during his reign in a Facebook post.

"Fidel Castro's death cannot bring back his thousands of victims, nor can it bring comfort to their families," he said. "Today we remember them and honor the brave souls who fought the lonely fight against the brutal Communist dictatorship he imposed on Cuba."

Cuban exile group, the Cuban Democratic Directorate, criticized Castro for his "vicious totalitarian regime" and said he left behind "legacy of intolerance," according to the BBC.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., denounced Castro as a "tryant" and "thug" and released a statement calling for Cuba's liberation.

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"The day that the people, both inside the island and out, have waited for has arrived: A tyrant is dead and a new beginning can dawn on the last remaining communist bastion of the Western hemisphere," she said. "The message is now very clear to those who think they will continue to misrule Cuba through oppression and fear. Enough is enough. The Cuban people have been shortchanged for too long to continue down this reviled path."

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