Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will not be attending the funeral of former Cuban President Fidel Castro.
In a move announced following the weekend controversy of the prime minister’s Twitter remarks over the death of the Cuban dictator, the Prime Minister’s Office has said that Trudeau’s schedule won’t permit the trip.
Governor-General David Johnson was to attend a commemoration for Castro in Cuba on Tuesday, instead.
Trudeau released a statement on Saturday after Castro’s death was announced calling him “a larger than life leader,” as well as “a legendary revolutionary and orator” who made “significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.”
Please read my statement on the passing of former Cuban President Fidel Castro: https://t.co/vIYCZrJGfg
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) November 26, 2016
The comments received widespread criticism for seeming to gloss over Castro’s repressive and at times brutal treatment of his people. Human Rights Watch has condemned Castro’s regime for its suppression of the rights of Cuban citizens.
“As other countries in the region turned away from authoritarian rule, only Fidel Castro’s Cuba continued to repress virtually all civil and political rights,” said José Miguel Vivanco, the Americas director at Human Rights Watch, in an article released on their website detailing life under Castro’s rule.
Cuba: Fidel Castro’s Record of Repression https://t.co/FwUFmYeoTO
— Human Rights Watch (@hrw) November 26, 2016
Trudeau’s comments also evoked strong responses from political figures in Canada and the United States.
Thomas Mulcair, leader of the NDP, tweeted his own response to the news of Castro’s death, while Conservative leadership hopeful Kellie Leitch took to twitter to call out the prime minister.
Upon the passing of Fidel Castro let us think of the lives impacted by his actions and be hopeful for the future of the Cuban people.
— Tom Mulcair (@ThomasMulcair) November 26, 2016
— Kellie Leitch (@KellieLeitch) November 26, 2016
— Kellie Leitch (@KellieLeitch) November 27, 2016
South of the border, prominent Republicans Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz also criticized the prime minister’s statements.
Is this a real statement or a parody? Because if this is a real statement from the PM of Canada it is shameful & embarrassing. https://t.co/lFXeqU7Ws0
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) November 26, 2016
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) November 26, 2016
The Trudeau family has been long linked to Fidel Castro. Former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Castro appeared to share a close friendship. When Pierre Elliott died in 2000, Castro attended the funeral in Montreal as an honourary pallbearer.