White House extends 'hand of friendship' to Cuban people after Castro death

White House extends 'hand of friendship' to Cuban people after Castro death

Castro, aged 90, died on Friday night after defying the United States (US) during an iron-fisted rule that lasted for about half a century.

He "oppressed his own people for almost six decades", Trump said in a statement.

His statement stands in stark contrast to that of President-elect Donald Trump, who called Castro a "brutal dictator" whose legacy was one of "firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty, and the denial of fundamental human rights".

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump gestures to the news media as he appears outside the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, November 20.

He made no mention of his earlier threats to reverse a historic rapprochement carried out by the two countries under President Barack Obama, saying only "our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty".

Trump, who takes office on January 20, threatened during his campaign that concerns about religious freedom in Cuba could prompt him to reverse Obama's moves to open relations with Cold War adversary Cuba after more than a half-century's estrangement.

"President Obama has acknowledged that "the relationship between the United States and Cuba was marked by discord and profound political disagreements", but also highlighted that his administration has worked hard to put the past behind us".

Blocked from ending the USA embargo on the island by a Republican-controlled Congress, Obama pushed smaller reforms using executive authority. The Castro government sent thousands of doctors and nurses to work in remote Caribbean areas where local and other foreign medical personnel had refused to go, Nagamootoo said.

He said: "Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for nearly half a century".

President Obama gave a meandering dismissal of the Castro regime's oppression on his way to wish "condolences" to Fidel Castro's family and assurances to his heir Raul Castro that the USA remains a "friend and partner".

Former London mayor Ken Livingstone said the former Cuban leader was an "absolute giant of the 20th century", and blamed the United States for the restrictions on civil liberties under his leadership.

"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".

The outgoing president said Saturday that in the days ahead, Cubans "will recall the past and also look to the future".

"Today we remember them and honor the courageous souls who fought the lonely fight against the brutal communist dictatorship he imposed on Cuba", Cruz said.

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, another conservative Cuban-American who represents southern Florida's 27th district where many Cuban exiles live, hailed Castro's death.