Two Democratic presidential candidates have publicly weighed in on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ controversial comments on “60 Minutes” Sunday night in which he defended some parts of Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba.
Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg both condemned Sanders’ equivocal support for Castro’s leadership in which he employed the “it wasn’t all bad” mentality of the former Cuban dictator.
“Fidel Castro left a dark legacy of forced labor camps, religious repression, widespread poverty, firing squads, and the murder of thousands of his own people,” Bloomberg tweeted Monday. “But sure, Bernie, let’s talk about his literacy program.”
Fidel Castro left a dark legacy of forced labor camps, religious repression, widespread poverty, firing squads, and the murder of thousands of his own people.
But sure, Bernie, let’s talk about his literacy program. pic.twitter.com/3Xqu435uoA
— Mike Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg) February 24, 2020
Bloomberg’s campaign doubled down.
“As a Cuban who fled Fidel Castro’s murderous regime, and a son of a political prisoner who spent years in Castro’s prisons, I am disgusted by Bernie Sanders’ praises of the Cuban dictator,” wrote Bloomberg campaign national co-chair and former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz.
“Sanders has repeatedly stated his admiration of the Castro regime, and the alleged ‘literacy program.’ The reality is far different from the picture Sanders paints. Children are taught by teachers who are barely paid enough to buy enough food to survive, and they study in dilapidated schools that may or may not have running water and electricity. The only books are supplied by the government, filled with pro-Castro propaganda. There are no notebooks, pencils or chalk for chalkboards. Kids go to school starving as their parents have no money for food, hardly an ideal state for learning.”
Diaz said literacy means nothing if Cubans don’t have freedom.
Buttigieg didn’t mention Sanders by name but tweeted a clip from the “60 Minutes” video with a caption condemning dictatorial leadership.
“After four years of looking on in horror as Trump cozied up to dictators, we need a president who will be extremely clear in standing against regimes that violate human rights abroad. We can’t risk nominating someone who doesn’t recognize this,” Buttigieg tweeted.
After four years of looking on in horror as Trump cozied up to dictators, we need a president who will be extremely clear in standing against regimes that violate human rights abroad. We can’t risk nominating someone who doesn’t recognize this. pic.twitter.com/N2JHGzns93
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) February 24, 2020
The rebuke comes after Sanders defended his past praise for Castro in an interview with Anderson Cooper.
“We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba, but you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad,” Sanders said. “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’ comments have been likened to President Donald Trump’s equivocation in 2017 of White Supremacists at the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which he said there were “very fine people” on both sides of the protests in which a woman was killed after being mowed over by a car that barreled through a crowd of people protesting white supremacy.
A host of Democrats have criticized Sanders since his interview aired including several South Florida elected officials worried that his comments could have potential down-ballot consequences.
The Republican National Committee confirmed their fears, writing “good luck” in a statement condemning Sanders’ seeming support for a dangerous dictator.
Gov. Ron DeSantis also condemned the comments.