Evan Davis and Tariq Ali in furious clash as Newsnight guest defends Fidel Castro

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The pair became entwined in the bitter argument after Tariq Ali, a writer, journalist and fimmaker, attempted to excuse the communist revolutionist for his “judicial killings” while in charge.

The former dictator passed away, at the age of 90, on Saturday after suffering from poor health and reportedly being blighted by intestinal problems. 

The death of the ex-Cuban president has split opinion with many hitting out at key figures and European bureaucrat r’s praise of the dead revolutionist.

While discussing his death on ’s Newsnight, the show’s host compared him to Augusto Pinochet, a Chilean military dictator, who ruled his country from 1973 to 1990, and was later arrested in Britain for his crimes.

Mr Ali, the editor of New Left Review, blasted back: “Hang on, Pinochet wiped out 30,000 people for God’s sake.

“How can you compare Pinochet to Castro? But why did you mention Pinochet?”

A combative Davis rebuked: “Because it’s about which… it is because it’s the side you’re on that dictates, you’re willing to forgive all the stuff you admitted he [Castro] did.”

Davis added that it was fair to say that Pinochet had “developed Chile” in the same way that Castro had lead a revolution in Cuba, which didn’t make his crimes inexcusable.

Mr Ali continued: “Even Pinochet’s admirers don’t say the same things about him by the way, they now accept what he did.

“Chile is doing what it’s doing to obliterate that legacy which was backed by the West. Why can’t you just recognise…”

In a bid to calm the situation, commentator Peter Hitchens said: “This enormous rage you get into about Pinochet’s killing, but what about Castro’s judicial murders?

“The show trials? The shootings? The repeated firing squads at the La Cabana during the first months of his time in power.”

Mr Ali’s response then took aim at the Americans and those who were critical of Castro for “liberating his country socially and economically”. 

He said: “The Cuban’s made a revolution, the Americans tried to stop it. The Americans punished them for nationalising all the big American companies and liberating their country socially and economically.

“That they made mistakes, we know. But, you know, the mistakes made by people, dictators in South America and elsewhere who backed, backed by the United States.”

“s Davis fired back: “You use the words ‘mistakes were made,’ in a sort of passive way, these were things that were worse than anything the United States.”

Mr Ali then claimed that it was once again America who should be criticised for being “the worst” thing to happen to Cuba recently, as he slammed alleged torture of prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay.

While many world leaders rushed to praise Castro following his death, President-elect used his position to .

He said: “Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of human rights.

“While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the hours endured for too long, and towards a future in which the wonderful Cuban people can finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.”