Canada PM's positive Castro remarks spark ire, humor

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TORONTO, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose family's ties with the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro go back decades, mourned the loss of a "remarkable leader" on Saturday, sparking a flurry of criticism and humor at his favorable tone.

Castro, who died on Friday aged 90, won support for bringing schools and hospitals to the poor but also created legions of enemies for his ruthless suppression of dissent.

Trudeau's comments on Castro were markedly more positive than most Western leaders, who either condemned the revolutionary leader's human rights record or tip-toed around the subject.

Instead, Trudeau warmly recalled his late father's friendship with Castro and his own meeting with Castro's three sons and brother - Raul, Cuba's current president - during a visit to the island nation earlier this month.

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NTP: Canadian PM Justin Trudeau visits White House, State Dinner
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NTP: Canadian PM Justin Trudeau visits White House, State Dinner
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada exchange toasts during a State Dinner at the White House March 10, 2016 in Washington, D.C. Prime Minister Trudeau is on an official visit to Washington. (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: President Barack Obama (C) gives a toast as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (L) and First Lady Sophie Trudeau of Canada look on during a State Dinner at the White House March 10, 2016 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: US President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hold a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office of the White House March 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. This is Trudeau's first trip to Washington since becoming Prime Minister. (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: US President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hold a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office of the White House March 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. This is Trudeau's first trip to Washington since becoming Prime Minister. (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walk from the Oval Office to a joint press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House March 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. Trudeau and Obama met privately in the Oval Office prior to the press conference. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: U.S. first lady Michelle Obama stands with Canadian first lady Sophie Gregoire Trudeau during an arrival ceremony for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (not pictured) on the South Lawn of the White House, March 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. This is Trudeau's first trip to Washington since becoming Prime Minister. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama and Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take part in a welcome ceremony during a State Visit on the South Lawn of the White House on March 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. / AFP / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walk from the Oval Office to a joint press conference in the Rose Garden at the White House, March 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. Obama and Trudeau met privately before the press conference. This is Trudeau's first trip to Washington since becoming Prime Minister. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: Canandian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau escorts his wife Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau during an arrival ceremony with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House, March 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. This is Trudeau's first trip to Washington since becoming Prime Minister. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets invited guests during an arrival ceremony with U.S. President Barack Obama on the South Lawn of the White House, March 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. This is Trudeau's first trip to Washington since becoming Prime Minister. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau watch as a fife and drum corps performs during a an arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, March 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. This is Trudeau's first trip to Washington since becoming Prime Minister. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the location of the Stanley Cup as he welcomes Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during an arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, March 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. This is Trudeau's first trip to Washington since becoming Prime Minister. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US President Barack Obama greet visitors as they take part in a welcome ceremony during a State Visit on the South Lawn of the White House on March 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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"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'," Trudeau said in the statement.

He called Castro "larger than life" and "a legendary revolutionary and orator."

Fidel Castro was an honorary pall bearer at the 2000 funeral of Trudeau's father, former prime minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau. In 1976, the senior Trudeau became the first NATO leader to visit Cuba since its revolution, at one point exhorting "Viva Castro!"

"I know my father was very proud to call him a friend and I had the opportunity to meet Fidel when my father passed away," the Canadian prime minister said on Saturday.

Trudeau did not see Fidel Castro during his official visit to Cuba in November

His statement was met with puzzlement and derision by some Americans, including U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who is of Cuban descent.

"Is this a real statement or parody? Because if this is a real statement from the PM of Canada it is shameful and embarrassing," Rubio tweeted.

The statement spawned the Twitter hashtag #TrudeauEulogies, which quickly began trending as people emulated Trudeau's upbeat tone and lack of criticism.

"While controversial, Darth Vader achieved great heights in space construction and played a formative role in his son's life," tweeted @markusoff, riffing on the Star Wars movie villain.

Canada, long one of Cuba's closest Western allies, hosted secret talks between Cuba and the United States, brokered by the Vatican, that led to the resumption of diplomatic ties between the two foes last year. (Reporting by Amran Abocar; Editing by Bill Rigby)

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Fidel Castro's life in photos
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Fidel Castro's life in photos
Pope Francis (L) and former Cuban President Fidel Castro hold hands in Havana, Cuba, September 20, 2015. Picture taken September 20. REUTERS/Alex Castro/AIN/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. IT IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.
Former Cuban president Fidel Castro and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill meet in Havana February 13, 2016. REUTERS/JUVENTUD REBELDE/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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