Trump condemns Castro as ‘brutal dictator’. Pledged to fight for a “free Cuba”


Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro
Donald Trump condemned the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro on an otherwise quiet Saturday for the president-elect.

“The world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades,” Trump said in a statement issued hours after Castro’s death. “Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.”

Trump, who has pledged to roll back the Obama administration’s diplomatic opening to Cuba, said the nation remains “a totalitarian island,” but he hopes that Castro’s passing will mark “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.”

Noting support of anti-Castro Cuban Americans during the recent presidential election, Trump pledged to fight for a “free Cuba” during his administration.

“Though the tragedies, deaths and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty,” Trump said in his statement.

Earlier in the morning, Trump marked the news with brief tweet: “Fidel Castro is dead!”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, tweeted that he called Trump to tell the president-elect that Florida “will help his administration to support a pro-democracy movement in Cuba.”

Trump also spoke with another Florida Republican, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, about Castro’s death. The mayor’s spokesman, Mike Hernandez, tweeted that Trump “expressed his support for and solidarity with the Cuban-American community.”

Otherwise, the president-elect spent a low-key Saturday at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. Trump is expected to return to New York on Sunday.

Since arriving in South Florida early Tuesday, Trump named members of his Cabinet and White House staff, including foreign policy posts.

On Friday, Trump made two White House appointments: Kathleen Troia “K.T.” McFarland to serve as deputy national security adviser and Don McGahn as White House counsel.

McGahn’s duties will include helping Trump navigate between his duties as president and his business interests across the world.

There are also more than 70 lawsuits still facing Trump from his businessman days.

In late October, USA TODAY reported that “if elected, the open lawsuits will tag along with Trump. He would not be entitled to immunity, and could be required to give depositions or even testify in open court. That could chew up time and expose a litany of uncomfortable private and business dealings to the public.”

McFarland, who will be deputy to National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, served the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations in various national security-related posts. A former Fox News commentator, McFarland has echoed Trump’s support of Russian President Vladimir Putin over his activities in Syria. Critics of Putin say he is only interested in propping up Russian ally and Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.

Earlier in the week, Trump nominated South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and Michigan-based charter school advocate Betsy DeVos to be education secretary. Both nominees are subject to Senate confirmation.

Trump and aides continue to consider a secretary of State. Contenders include 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, though each has his critics.

Ben Carson, a rival of Trump’s during the Republican primaries, is considering an offer to join Trump’s Cabinet. The president-elect says he is considering Carson for secretary of housing and urban development.