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No tears: US pols react to Fidel Castro's death

Story highlights
  • Cruz: Castro's death cannot bring back his thousands of victims
  • Royce: No one should rule anywhere near as long as Fidel Castro did

Washington(CNN) American lawmakers -- including those with Cuban ties -- reacted strongly Saturday to Fidel Castro's death.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose father, Rafael, said he fled the country after being beaten and imprisoned for protesting Cuba's oppressive government, said he was thinking about the victims of the Cuban leader.

"Fidel Castro's death cannot bring back his thousands of victims, nor can it bring comfort to their families," the former Republican presidential candidate said on Facebook. "Today we remember them and honor the brave souls who fought the lonely fight against the brutal Communist dictatorship he imposed on Cuba."

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said he hopes Castro's death could lead to a "truly free and democratic Cuba."

"Fidel Castro's regime committed horrendous and innumerable atrocities against the Cuban people, advancing corruption and violence and preventing a free-market economy that would have brought opportunity and prosperity to several generations of Cuban families," he said Saturday.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio called Castro an "evil, murderous dictator who inflicted misery & suffering on his own people."

"Over six decades, millions of Cubans were forced to flee their own country, and those accused of opposing the regime were routinely jailed and even killed," said the former Republican presidential candidate whose parents were Cuban immigrants.

"Sadly, Fidel Castro's death does not mean freedom for the Cuban people or justice for the democratic activists, religious leaders, and political opponents he and his brother have jailed and persecuted. The dictator has died, but the dictatorship has not," Rubio added.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said "the cruelty and oppression" of Castro's regime should die with him.

"Sadly, much work remains to secure the freedom of the Cuban people, and the United States must be fully committed to that work," the Wisconsin lawmaker said.

Former US President Jimmy Carter had fond memories of his time visiting Cuba with his wife, Rosalynn.

"We remember fondly our visits with him in Cuba and his love of his country," he said Saturday. "We wish the Cuban citizens peace and prosperity in the years ahead."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich criticized those praising Castro.

"The outpouring of praise for Fidel Castro is tragic. He was a relentless dictator who imprisoned thousands, killed and tortured many Cubans," Gingrich tweeted. "Castro's policies impoverished the Cuban people. Look at the cars in pictures. A dictatorship that drove out hundreds of thousands of Cubans."

"Build a list of those praising Castro and you will have a list of leftists who reject reality for an ideological fantasy," he added.

US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called Castro's death an opportunity for the Cuban regime "to turn the page for the good of the Cuban people."

"While Fidel Castro is gone, sadly the oppression that was the hallmark of his era is not," he tweeted.

The parents of New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez fled Cuba and what the Democrat said Castro's conduct will "haunt our hemisphere forever."

"Fidel's oppressive legacy will haunt the Cuban regime and our hemisphere forever. Under the Castros' reign, Cubans have not had one single free election," he said Saturday.

"Contrary to the romanticized idea being peddled by some, recent lopsided concessions in U.S. policy towards Cuba have not led to an iota of positive changes in the way the regime rules or the Cuban people live," Menendez added.

Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker said he hopes Castro's death allows the Cuban people to "turn the page toward a better way of life."

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said the Cuban people now deserve "freedom, peace and democracy."

"I spoke to President-elect Trump this morning to let him know that the State of Florida will help his administration in any way to support a pro-democracy movement in Cuba," he said.

Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a fierce Castro critic, was born in Cuba before being forced out of the country with her family at the age of eight.

"The death of #Castro opens up a hopeful new future 4 #Cuba. NOW is the time 2 ensure freedom + democracy 4 the #Cuban people," she said Saturday on "Good Morning America."

"Those who still rule Cuba with an iron grip may attempt to delay the island's liberation, but they cannot stop it," she said in a statement. "Castro's successors cannot hide and must not be allowed to hide beneath cosmetic changes that will only lengthen the malaise of the Cuban nation."

"No regime, no matter who leads it, will have a shred of legitimacy if it has not been chosen by the people of Cuba in free and fair elections," she added.

California Republican Rep. Ed Royce called Castro's legacy one of "repression" and "support for terrorism."

"For more than half a century, the Cuban people have suffered under the brutal dictatorship of the Castro clan," the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said. "No one should rule anywhere near as long as Fidel Castro did. His legacy is one of repression at home, and support for terrorism abroad. Sadly, Raul Castro is no better for Cubans who yearn for freedom."

Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, who was born in Cuba, called Castro "a dictator."

"Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado: 'I hope these people are not criticized for celebrating his death ... this man was a dictator. #FidelCastro,' Miami Herald reporter Joey Flechas tweeted Saturday.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez said Castro's death closes a painful chapter but that Raul Castro is still head of one of a repressive government.

"His passing closes a very painful chapter for Cubans on the island and Cuban-Americans throughout the world, including for thousands of Miami-Dade County residents who were personally affected by his cruel and brutal dictatorship," Gimenez said. "Despite this historic moment however, we know that Fidel's brother Raul continues to lead one of the world's most repressive governments."

"My hope is that a free and democratic Cuba with the same freedoms we treasure here in the United States will soon emerge. It is what the Cuban people deserve," he added.