Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau clarified his comments on the death of longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro after being harshly criticized for them.
Trudeau said at a news conference on Sunday that his statement on Castro's death was meant "to recognize ... a former head of state" that Canada had ties to and not to overlook Castro's history of human-rights abuses, Reuters reported.
"The fact is Fidel Castro had a deep and lasting impact on the Cuban people," Trudeau said at the news conference.
"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," Trudeau said on Sunday. He also acknowledged that Castro was a dictator when a CBC News reporter asked him about it.
In a statement released soon after Castro died, Trudeau expressed "deep sorrow" over his death and called him a "larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century."
"A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation," the original statement said.
Castro did garner support for improving access to healthcare and education for the poor, but he was also known for ruthlessly suppressing any kind of dissent.
In 1976, Trudeau's father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, then Canada's prime minister, became the first NATO leader to visit Cuba since the 1959 revolution in which Castro took power. Canada maintained relations with the island nation during America's multidecade embargo.
Though Trudeau did acknowledge in his original statement that Castro was a "controversial" figure, he followed that by praising Castro's "tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people."
Quickly after the statement was released, critics slammed Trudeau's comments. Among those were two US officials of Cuban descent: Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas.
Rubio tweeted: "Is this a real statement or parody? Because if this is a real statement from the PM of Canada it is shameful and embarrassing."
Cruz echoed Rubio's remarks, tweeting that Trudeau's comments were "disgraceful."
More From Business Insider