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Fidel Castro Dies at 90: Obama, World Leaders React to Death of Cuban Dictator

President Barack Obama offered America's hand in friendship to the Cuban people following the passing of the longtime dictator Friday.
Image: Fidel Castro in 2007
Cuban President Fidel Castro gestures while attending a meeting in front of the United States Interests Office in Havana in 2007.ADALBERTO ROQUE / AFP - Getty Images, file

The death of Fidel Castro, one of this era's most polarizing global figures, prompted an outpouring of responses from around the world, ranging from sympathy to celebration.

President Barack Obama, who has made restoring diplomatic ties with Cuba a hallmark of his administration, offered America's hand in friendship to the Cuban people following the death of the longtime dictator Friday.

Related: Former Cuban Leader Fidel Castro Dead at 90

"We know that this moment fills Cubans — in Cuba and in the United States — with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation," Obama said in a statement. "History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him."

He extended condolences to Cuba and added: "In the days ahead, they will recall the past and also look to the future. As they do, the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America."

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants and a critic of Obama's Cuba policy, criticized the president's statement and said that "one thing is clear, history will not absolve Fidel Castro; it will remember him as an evil, murderous dictator who inflicted misery and suffering on his own people."

Castro's death was announced by his brother late Friday night on state television. Miami's Little Havana neighborhood erupted in wild jubilation in the streets as Cuban-Americans, many of whom were political exiles from their home country, welcomed the end of his regime.

Pope Francis said in a message delivered in Spanish to Fidel Castro's brother, current Cuban President Raul Castro, that his death was "sad news."

Related: Pope Francis Meets with Fidel Castro During Cuba Visit

"I express to you my sentiments of grief," added the pope, who met Fidel Castro when he visited Cuba last year. Castro, 90, was a self-professed atheist who was baptized as a Catholic.

President-elect Donald Trump weighed in with a simple, terse tweet before releasing a longer statement:

Other foreign leaders had larger messages for the people of Cuba.

U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson expressed condolences to Cubans and to Castro's family, and said his death "marks the end of an era for Cuba and the start of a new one for Cuba's people."

“Fidel Castro’s leadership of the 1959 Cuban Revolution marked him out as an historic if controversial figure. The U.K. will continue to work with the government of Cuba on a wide range of foreign policy priorities, including on human rights,” Johnson said.

Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi called Castro "one of the most iconic personalities of the 20th century" and said India "mourns the loss of a great friend."

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto also referred to Castro as a friend "who promoted a bilateral relationship based on respect, dialogue and solidarity."

In Syria, which is weathering a years-long civil war and U.S. sanctions, President Bashar Assad praised Castro.

"Our friend Cuba was able under his leadership to stand its ground in the face of the most ferocious of sanctions and unfair campaigns witnessed in our modern history,” Assad said in a condolence letter. “The name Fidel Castro will live forever in the minds of generations and remain an inspiration for all the peoples who aspire to achieve real independence and liberation from the yoke of colonialism and hegemony.”

PHOTOS: From Tears to Cheers, World Reacts to Castro's Death

Castro's deep diplomatic and economic ties with the former Soviet Union frayed his relations with much of the rest of the world, particularly the United States.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a statement Saturday that Castro was a "true and reliable friend of Russia. He has made a great personal contribution to establishing and developing Russian-Cuban ties, a close strategic cooperation across the board."

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev told Russia's Interfax news agency: "I am sincerely concerned that Fidel's time is over. In our memory he will remain an outstanding politician, outstanding person and our friend."

"A tyrant is dead and a new beginning can dawn on the last remaining communist bastion of the Western hemisphere."

In Greece, left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was diplomatic: "He was the guarantor of the dignity and independence of his people and laid the ground for regional cooperation in Latin America."

Meanwhile, South African President Jacob Zuma praised Castro for leading the Cuban revolution.

"President Castro identified with our struggle against apartheid. He inspired the Cuban people to join us in our own struggle against apartheid. The Cuban people, under the leadership and command of President Castro, joined us in our struggle against apartheid," Zuma said.

President of Ecuador Rafael Correa tweeted that "one of the big ones" was gone and wrote: "Viva Cuba! Viva Latin America!"

But not all the responses from dignitaries were so glowing — particularly from Cuban-American politicians.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose father was born in Cuba, said on Facebook that Castro's death "cannot bring back his thousands of victims, nor can it bring comfort to their families. Today we remember them and honor the brave souls who fought the lonely fight against the brutal Communist dictatorship he imposed on Cuba."

"Today, a tyrant is dead," added Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., in a statement on Facebook. "Although his totalitarian dictatorship deeply scarred a once prosperous nation, his death ushers in a renewed hope that the Cuban people finally will be free."

And Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., called Castro's death "the end of a long, horrifying chapter in Cuba's history."

Fellow Florida Republican, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, slammed Castro and those who supported him.

“The day that the people, both inside the island and out, have waited for has arrived: A tyrant is dead and a new beginning can dawn on the last remaining communist bastion of the Western hemisphere," she said in a statement. "Fidel’s apologists around the world can help to restore freedom and human rights for Cuba by joining the call for the new regime to free the hundreds of freedom fighters and pro-democracy activists still locked in Castro’s prisons."