Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in an interview with 60 minutes defended Cuban communist revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, saying its “unfair to simply say everything is bad” under the late dictator regime.
“We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba, but you know it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad. You know, when Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing, even though Fidel Castro did it?” Sanders said in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes.”
His remarks came in response to a question about his past comments he made in a speech given at the University of Vermont in 1986, praising Castro for implementing socialist policies and explaining why Cubans didn’t help the U.S. overthrow Castro because he “educated their kids, gave them health care, totally transformed the society.”
60 minute host Anderson Cooper noted that many political dissidents remained imprisoned in Cuba.
“That’s right,” Sanders acknowledged. “And we condemn that.”
The senator then sought to contrast himself against President Trump for his unlikely friendships with some dictators, including North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
“Unlike Donald Trump, let’s be clear. I do not think that Kim Jong Un is a good friend. I don’t trade love letters with a murdering dictator. Vladimir Putin, not a great friend of mine,” Sanders said.
Sanders, a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist has a lengthy history of laudatory comments about Castro.
In 1989, Sanders effusively praised the “Cuban revolution” in a public statement from the mayor’s office.
“For better or for worse, the Cuban revolution is a very profound and very deep revolution. Much deeper than I had understood,” Sanders wrote. “More interesting than their providing their people with free health care, free education, free housing … is that they are in fact creating a very different value system than the one we are familiar with.”
Vermont outlets also reported in 1989 how Sanders, then mayor of Burlington, Vermont, traveled to Cuba for an eight-day visit and met with the mayor of Havana. Upon returning, according to the Rutland Herald, Sanders lauded the impact the Castro revolution had on the country, calling them “more profound than I had understood it to be.”
The Sanders campaign defended the senator’s remarks about Castro, arguing Sanders was “simply echoing” former President Obama.
“Sen. Sanders has clearly and consistently criticized Fidel Castro’s authoritarianism and condemned his human rights abuses, and he’s simply echoing President Obama’s acknowledgment that Cuba made progress, especially in education,” Sanders communications director Mike Casca said in a statement.