HAVANA (Reuters) - The race for the Republican Party presidential nomination in the United States has been a contest of "idiocy and ignorance," former Cuban leader Fidel Castro said on Wednesday in a column in Cuba's state-run press.
Castro and the communist Cuba he created have been the target of much rhetoric in the lead-up to Florida's Republican primary next week, with top candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich taking hard-line positions to appeal to the state's large population of Cuban exiles.
Castro did not cite them, but expressed his general disgust with the Republican field.
"The selection of a Republican candidate for president of that globalized and encompassing empire is - I say this seriously - the greatest competition of idiocy and ignorance that has ever been heard."
"I knew only too well it would be like that," Castro wrote, before saying he had "things to do" and could not spend more time on the subject.
The 85-year-old Castro has had few kinds words for U.S. President Barack Obama in past columns and in a recent Reflection, as his pieces are known, said the United States would be better off electing a robot for president.
Gingrich said in a debate he would try "aggressively to overthrow the (Castro) regime" using covert actions.
Romney said if Fidel Castro died he would "Thank heavens that Fidel Castro has returned to his maker and will be sent to another land."
"I don't think that Fidel is going to meet his maker," Gingrich responded. "I think he's going to the other place."
Fidel Castro ruled Cuba for 49 years before his younger brother, Raul Castro, succeeded him as president in February 2008. He is mostly retired, but writes opinion columns and still meets with some visiting leaders
Obama has modestly relaxed a 50-year-old trade embargo against the island to allow more U.S. travel to Cuba and to end restrictions on the sending of remittances, which exile leaders have criticized as moves helpful to the Cuban government.
He has said more progress would depend on Cuba improving its human rights and on releasing Alan Gross, a U.S. contractor jailed for illicitly setting up Internet works for Cuba's Jewish community.
Fidel Castro also lashed out in his column at international reaction to the recent death of prisoner Wilman Villar Mendoza, said by dissidents to have been a political prisoner who died from the effects of a hunger strike protesting his incarceration.
Cuba said he was jailed for domestic violence and did not conduct a hunger strike, but died from other causes, which Fidel Castro reiterated on Wednesday.
He said Cuba's critics should worry about their own problems and he accused the international media of "incredible cynicism" and lying about the case.
"Why do the mass media of the empire lie so shamelessly?" Castro wrote.
"Those who direct those media insist on deceiving and brutalizing the world with their ugly lies, thinking perhaps that that's the principal way to maintain the global system of domination," he said.
(Reporting By Jeff Franks, Editing by Jane Sutton and Cynthia Osterman)