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Sanders on Fidel Castro: ‘Unfair to say everything was bad’

Sen. Bernie Sanders (VA/Robert Turtil)
February 25, 2020

In a Sunday episode of CBS News’ “60 Minutes” Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders offered comments in support of Fidel Castro’s revolutionary communist government in Cuba.

In a segment of the interview show, Sanders defended comments he made in the 1980s about the Cuban government under Castro. Sanders previously stated that the Cuban people didn’t rise up against Castro because he “educated their kids, gave them health care, totally transformed the society.”

“We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad. You know?,” Sanders said in his latest interview comments. “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?”

Castro died in November of 2016. In December of 2016, the Miami Herald reported some estimates of between 35,000 and 141,000 people were killed under Castro’s regime, while other reports suggested the number is closer to 7,000. Experts studying the Cuban government’s incarceration methods have also credited Castro’s regime with the mass the incarceration of hundreds of thousands of political prisoners, though accurate assessments are difficult to obtain from the Cuban government’s accounting.

Sanders did attempt to put some comparative distance between his seemingly favorable comments towards Castro and outright support for the controversial Cuban leader. He suggested that his comments differed from those of President Donald Trump has made towards other controversial leaders. Sanders criticized Trump who, in the process of working towards a nuclear deal with North Korea, called North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a “good friend.”

“Unlike Donald Trump, let’s be clear, you want to– 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, has in the past expressed support for other self-avowed communist and socialist governments and has more recently labeled himself a “democratic socialist.”

In describing his views of the controversial term “socialism,” he again compared himself to Trump and said that Trump’s use of $800 million in tax breaks and government subsidies to build luxury housing in New York was an example of “corporate socialism.”

During the interview, Sanders said his idea of “democratic socialism” is saying, “Let’s use the federal government to protect the interests of working families.”

In a Monday night CNN town hall, Sanders again defended his support of Castro’s literacy programs.

He also shared similar comments in credit to China.

“China is another example, all right? China is an authoritarian country, becoming more and more authoritarian. But can anyone deny — I mean, the facts are clear — that they have taken more people out of extreme poverty than any country in history?,” Sanders said Monday.

Sanders has proposed a medicare for all program estimated by CBS News to cost between $30 and $40 trillion over a ten year period. He has also proposed free public college, cancellation of all student debt and a federal job guarantee as part of his presidential platform.

The Vermont senator also expressed support in 2019 for the “Green New Deal,” which, among other things, calls for the elimination of greenhouse gas emitting transportation and calls for all existing buildings in the U.S. to be renovated to maximize energy efficiency.