OTTAWA Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will not attend the funeral of Fidel Castro, his office said on Monday, days after Trudeau’s warm comments about the late Cuban leader sparked a backlash.
Furore over Trudeau’s expression of sorrow at Castro’s death has erupted in both Canada and the United States. Trudeau acknowledged Sunday that Castro had been a dictator as political opponents called on him to boycott the funeral.
Outrage and mockery about Trudeau’s fond words for Castro, who had been an honorary pallbearer at the funeral of Trudeau’s father, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, has threatened to end the Liberal leader’s long honeymoon.
Noting the “many questions” about whether Trudeau would attend the funeral, spokeswoman Andree-Lyne Halle said in an email the prime minister would skip the event, without elaborating.
Governor General David Johnston, Queen Elizabeth II’s representative in Canada, will attend a commemoration in honour of Castro on Tuesday, at the request of Trudeau, Johnson’s office said in a statement.
Canada has long been one of Cuba’s closest western allies, maintaining ties after its 1959 revolution even as the United States imposed an economic embargo.
Trudeau’s condolences following Castro’s death prompted a parody trend on Twitter, with users penning fake fawning #Trudeaueulogies for Pol Pot, Osama Bin Laden and serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.
Trudeau sparked fury after he referred to Castro as a “remarkable leader” and expressed his sorrow at the death of “Cuba’s longest serving president”.
Opposition Conservatives have seized on the Castro controversy as a political misstep that could cut into the popularity the prime minister has enjoyed among voters since his surprise majority election last October.
Maxime Bernier, who was Foreign Affairs Minister under the previous Conservative government and is a contender for the leadership of the party, said Trudeau’s warm words for Castro risk alienating the United States by departing so dramatically from the views of President-elect Donald Trump.
“Does Trudeau believe his historic family ties with Castro are more important than our economic interests and the future of millions of Canadian workers?” Bernier said in a statement.
(Reporting by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by David Gregorio)