Jeremy Corbyn: For all his flaws, Fidel Castro was a hero

Posted On: 
26th November 2016

Jeremy Corbyn has praised the "heroism" of Fidel Castro after the former communist dictator died at the age of 90.

Jeremy Corbyn has praised Fidel Castro
Credit: 
PA Images

The Labour leader said ex-Cuban leader - who was criticised by human rights campaigners for his brutal suppression of his political opponents - was "a massive figure in the history of the whole planet".

Castro came to power in 1959 following the Cuban revolution, and ruled the country for almost 50 years before handing over control to his brother, Raul.

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But his time in power was marked by an absence of democracy and the imprisonment and execution of minority groups and critics of his government.

Speaking in Oxford, Mr Corbyn said: "Fidel Castro was a massive figure in the history of the whole planet, ever since the revolution in 1959.

"There are stories of his heroism while living in Mexico in exile and then the boat to Cuba, the march to Havana and the revolution in 1959.

"He managed to bring good quality health services to all the people of Cuba, good quality education to all the people of Cuba and, of course, he had a foreign policy which was global, but particularly important in Southern Africa in supporting Angola against the apartheid regime."

In a statement later, the Labour leader added: "Fidel Castro's death marks the passing of a huge figure of modern history, national independence and 20th century socialism.

"From building a world class health and education system, to Cuba's record of international solidarity abroad, Castro's achievements were many.

"For all his flaws, Castro's support for Angola played a crucial role in bringing an end to apartheid in South Africa and he will be remembered both as an internationalist and a champion of social justice."

Former London mayor Ken Livingstone had earlier told the BBC was "an absolute giant of the 20th century".

He added: "If you said to me you can live as an ordinary person in Cuba or in Brazil under the dictatorship, I’d have gone for Cuba. I would have been a supporter of Castro."

CONTROVERSIAL

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also paid tribute to Castro.

He said: "The UK expresses its condolences to the government and people of Cuba, and to the former president’s family. Fidel Castro's death marks the end of an era for Cuba and the start of a new one for Cuba's people.

"Fidel Castro’s leadership of the 1959 Cuban Revolution marked him out as an historic if controversial figure. The UK will continue to work with the government of Cuba on a wide range of foreign policy priorities, including on human rights."