TORONTO - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, criticized for fondly remembering Fidel Castro without mention of his human rights record, defended his comments on Saturday and said the late Cuban leader had been a dictator.
Trudeau sparked fury and online mockery after he referred to Castro as a "remarkable leader" and expressed his sorrow at the Friday death of "Cuba's longest serving president."
Many were quick to point out that Castro suppressed dissent and there was no option for other leadership on the island nation under his regime.
On Sunday, Trudeau said the statement was simply meant "to recognize the passing of a former head of state" of a country that Canada had longstanding ties with, and not to gloss over unflattering history.
"The fact is Fidel Castro had a deep and lasting impact on the Cuban people," Trudeau told reporters in a televised news conference at a Madagascar Francophonie summit.
"He certainly was a polarizing figure and there certainly were significant concerns around human rights, that's something I'm open about and that I've highlighted."
Asked whether he thought Castro was a dictator, Trudeau said: "Yes."