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Trudeau: Maybe Castro Was A Dictator After All

On second thought, maybe he was a bad guy.

After hailing Fidel Castro as "a remarkable leader" and "legendary revolutionary" who showed "tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people" -- and getting widely mocked for those words -- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is backtracking on his effusive praise.

"There are people who have many memories and who experienced a great deal of difficulty because of what happened in Cuba, and I am not minimizing any of that," Trudeau said Nov. 27 from Madagascar, where he was attending a summit of French-speaking countries.

In response to a question from a CBC news reporter, Trudeau admitted Castro was a dictator. But he said his statement was intended to highlight "the deep connection between the people of Canada and the people of Cuba."

"The fact is Fidel Castro had a deep and lasting impact on the Cuban people," Trudeau said. "He certainly was a polarizing figure and there certainly were concerns around human rights. That's something that I'm open about and that I've highlighted."

Castro, who died Nov. 25 at the age of 90, seized power in 1959 after overthrowing Cuban President Fulgencio Batista. It was the start of more than a half-century of communist dictatorship that continues today under Castro's brother, Raul.

Castro has been widely criticized for human rights abuses, for impoverishing his own country, and for leading the world to the brink of nuclear war with 1962's Cuban Missile Crisis, during which he allowed the Soviet Union to deploy nuclear missiles in Cuba, less than 100 miles from Florida.

The non-profit Cuba Archive, which uses official reports to document Castro's victims, has case files on some 10,000 victims, the Wall Street Journal notes. But the Cuba Archive's Maria Werlau and Armando Lago say the total probably exceeds 100,000, with tens of thousands of additional deaths from people who tried to escape the island.

In response to Trudeau's warm and complimentary statement on Castro, Twitter users mocked the Canadian prime minister, using the hashtag #TrudeauEulogies to imagine how Trudeau might memorialize other tyrants, both historic and fictional, reports The Telegraph.

"I extend my heartfelt sympathies to the family of The Joker, a revolutionary who always had a smile on his face," one social media user wrote, referencing one of the most depraved villains from the Batman franchise.

Walter Russell Mead, a professor at Bard College in New York, imagined how Trudeau might have responded to the death of English King Henry VIII, who famously married six women and had two of his wives decapitated. "Henry VIII: An idealist and a dreamer, no disappointment could deter him from his determined quest for love," Mead tweeted.

And Toronto-based writer J.J. McCullough tweeted his version of a Trudeau eulogy for Roman Emperor Caligula, who famously had members of the Roman senate executed, and according to some accounts tried to make his favorite horse, Incitatus, a Consul.

"As we mourn Emperor Caligula," McCullough wrote, "let us always remember his steadfast devotion to Senate reform."

Sources: CBC, Wall Street Journal, The Telegraph / Photo credit: Alex Guibord/Flickr

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