Jeremy Corbyn praises "champion of social justice" Fidel Castro

The Labour leader said Castro was a key historical figure, despite his flaws. 

NS

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The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called Fidel Castro a "massive figure in the history of the whole planet" after the Cuban revolutionary died aged 90.

Corbyn commended the social changes Castro had brought about, and praised his "heroism", according to the Press Association.

He told the newswire: "I think history will show that Castro was such a key figure."

In an official statement, he expanded:

"Fidel Castro's death marks the passing of a huge figure of modern history, national independence and 20th century socialism.  

"From building a world class health and education system, to Cuba's record of international solidarity abroad, Castro's achievements were many.  

"For all his flaws, Castro's support for Angola played a crucial role in bringing an end to Apartheid in South Africa and he will be remembered both as an internationalist and a champion of social justice."

Corbyn has a longstanding interest in the politics of the Americas and has in past backed the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, which urges an end to the blockade of Cuba.

Castro's revolutionaries seized power in Cuba in 1959, and he would go on to govern the country for nearly 50 years, before handing over power to his brother, Raul. He was best-known for his willingness to stand up to the United States, his support for other former colonial countries and for delivering high standards of healthcare and education, although critics also condemned his record on human rights.

His death was announced by Raul, who told the nation on Friday night: "The commander in chief of the Cuban revolution died at 22:29 hours this evening."

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.