Marco Rubio: World leaders praising Fidel Castro are "hypocrites"

Following the death of Fidel Castro, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, offered up sharp criticisms of foreign leaders who eulogized the 90-year-old Cuban dictator, saying they had to “answer for their own hypocrisy” in reacting to Castro’s passing.

When asked by CBSN’s Reena Ninan why some would speak positively about Castro, Rubio, who is Cuban-American, gave a blistering rebuke.  

“Some world leaders have praised Castro,” Ninan said Saturday in the CBSN phone interview. “Today, Pope Francis expressed his sorrow. This is not the usual response to the death of a dictator. What do you think that is, that people have just not forgotten?”

“You’ll have to ask each of these individual leaders. Some of these people you’re talking about are people that have never had to live... near him, or anywhere around him or been impacted” by what he’s done, Rubio said. “Others, quite frankly have anti-American sentiments and have always viewed Fidel Castro as a person who stood up to America.”

“And others quite frankly are left-leaning -- they just agree with his ideology,” he said. “Each of these people have to account for their own level of hypocrisy and how they ignore the fact that he jailed and executed and murdered people.”

Leaders like the pope seemed to express their sympathy Saturday in messages to the family members of Castro, an avowed atheist. In a telegram to Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother and the current leader of Cuba, Francis offered “my sense of grief to your excellency and family.”

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto tweeted that “Fidel Castro was a friend of Mexico, promoting bilateral relations based on respect, dialogue and solidarity.”

And Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter that “Fidel Castro was one of the most iconic personalities of the 20th century. India mourns the loss of a great friend.”

“You’ll have to ask these leaders why they’re hypocrites,” Rubio said of those who complimented the revolutionary. “But I can tell you that he is not a heroic figure in any way.”

In fact, the Florida Republican said, history would judge the Cuban as “one of the most brutal dictators the western hemisphere has ever known.”  

Earlier in the day, Rubio even lobbed an attack against President Obama over his “pathetic” statement on Castro.

Asked on CBSN if Castro deserved forgiveness for his crimes, Rubio replied: “Forgiven? Well first of all, to be forgiven, you have to ask for forgiveness...You don’t forgive someone who thinks they never did anything wrong.”

Rubio further urged Americans, and the incoming Trump administration, to bear in mind that “while Fidel Castro is dead, the dictatorship is not.”

His advice for President-elect Donald Trump? “Examine all of our policies towards Cuba with an eye to our goals,” Rubio said, otherwise the island nation will “continue to be a source of mass migration…continue to be a source of economic crimes.”

“Our goal for Cuba should be democracy and freedom because it’s in our national interest. It’s the right thing,” said the Florida senator.

Mr. Trump has been asked before whether he would break off recently reinstated diplomatic relations with Cuba on the first day of his presidency, considering the civil liberties violations by the Castro government.

“I would do whatever you have to do to get a strong agreement,” Mr. Trump, during an interview with CBS Miami, said late in his presidential campaign. “And people want an agreement, I like the idea of an agreement, but it has to be a real agreement. So if you call that for negotiation purposes, whatever you have to do to make a great deal for the people of Cuba. So important.”