“At this time of Fidel Castro’s passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people,” Obama said. “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. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.”
“Today, we offer condolences to Fidel Castro’s family, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people. In the days ahead, they will recall the past and also look to the future,” he added. “As they do, the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America.”
Obama restored the United States’ full diplomatic relations with Cuba in July 2015 after years of negotiation with the government of Raul Castro, Fidel Castro’s brother and successor. Their efforts ended a decades-long period of estrangement that began shortly after the elder Castro seized power in 1959.
In March, Obama became the first American president to visit Cuba in 88 years.
Obama alluded to the diplomatic breakthrough over which he presided in his remarks on Castro’s death.
“For nearly six decades, the relationship between the United States and Cuba was marked by discord and profound political disagreements,” Obama said.
“During my presidency, we have worked hard to put the past behind us, pursuing a future in which the relationship between our two countries is defined not by our differences but by the many things that we share as neighbors and friends - bonds of family, culture, commerce, and common humanity,” he added. “This engagement includes the contributions of Cuban Americans, who have done so much for our country and who care deeply about their loved ones in Cuba.”
By contrast, President-elect Donald Trump, who will inherit Obama’s policy of reconciliation with Cuba, initially offered a much briefer reaction on Twitter.