French minister defends Castro’s rights record

French Environment Minister Segolene Royal, representing her government at a tribute for Fidel Castro in Cuba, defended the late communist leader's human rights record on Saturday, questioning whether the regime imprisons dissidents.

French minister defends Castro's rights record
Royal said Castro and his rebels were inspired by the French revolution when they overthrew the Cuban government. Photo: Alain Jocard / AFP file picture

The former socialist presidential candidate called Castro a “monument of history” and a “symbol of a very deep friendship between Cuba and France.”

She spoke to reporters in Santiago de Cuba before a massive rally in the eastern city on late Saturday. Castro will be buried at the city cemetery on Sunday.

“Thanks to Fidel Castro, Cubans reclaimed their territory, their lives, their destiny. They were inspired by the French revolution without experiencing the terror that took place during the French revolution,” she said.

Asked about the human rights violations denounced by the United Nations and dissidents, Royal said the island had “religious freedom” and “freedom of conscience.”

“There is a lot of disinformation,” said the number three official of French President Francois Hollande's government.

Acknowledging that there are “always positive and negative” moments in history, she said “we know that here, when you ask for a list of political prisoners, there is none. Show me the lists of political prisoners, and then we can do something about it.”