Ahead of Florida voting on, where millions of Cuban immigrants currently reside, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was asked once again during Sunday’s Democratic debate about his previous remarks praising Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s literacy programs.
“I have opposed authoritarianism, whether it’s in Cuba, whether it’s in Saudi Arabia, whether it’s in China, whether it’s in Russia. That’s my life record,” Sanders said. “I believe, unlike the president of the United States, in democracy, not authoritarianism, in Cuba.”
Last month, The Vermont Senator during an interview with CBS ’60 Minutes’ praised Castro for implementing socialist policies, saying it’s “unfair to simply say everything is bad” under the late dictator regime.
Moderator Ilia Calderon from Univision pressed on with a follow up question, asking Sanders why isn’t he judging Castro for his violation of human rights. Sanders refused to back down from his remarks, reiterating that authoritarian regimes “had a positive impact on their people.”
“Well, I think you can make the same point about China. China is undoubtedly an authoritarian society, OK. But would anybody deny, any economist deny that extreme poverty in China today is much less than what it was 40 or 50 years ago? That’s a fact,” Sanders said. “So I think we condemn authoritarianism, whether it’s in China, Russia, Cuba, any place else. But to simply say that nothing ever done by any of those administrations had a positive impact on their people would, I think, be incorrect.”
After, Biden was asked how former President Obama remarks in 2016 where he said Cuba made “a great progress in educating young people” and the health care system “is a huge achievement that they should be congratulated for” is different from Sanders’ remarks.
“He was trying to change Cuba policy so the Cuban people would get out from under the thumb of Castro and his brother,” Biden responded. “That is to change the policy so that we could in fact on — impact on Cuba’s policy by getting them opened up. That’s what that was about. been marginal the change that’s taken place.”
He went on criticizing Sanders remarks for praising Cuba and China, as well his previous praise for Soviet Union.
“The praising of the Sandinistas, the praising of Cuba, the praising just now of China. China is an authoritarian dictatorship, that’s what it is,” Biden said. “It is still — they have a million Uighurs, a million Muslims in prison camps in the West. You see what’s happening in Hong Kong today. And by the way, the idea that he praised the Soviet Union, when it was the Soviet Union, about the things that they had done well — they’re an awful dictatorship killing millions and millions of people.”
Sanders jumped it questioning Biden if China, despite its authoritarian government made “progress in ending extreme poverty over the last 50 years?”
“That’s like saying Jack the Ripper,” Biden replied, before Sanders jumped in to say “no, it’s not.”
“President Obama was more generous in his praise of what Cuba did in health care and education than I was. I was talking about a program 60 years ago, in the first year of the Castro revolution,” Sanders responded.
“Look, the idea of occasionally saying something nice about a country is one thing. The idea of praising a country that is violating human rights around the world is, in fact, makes our allies wonder what’s going on,” Biden stated. “Words matter. These are flat-out dictators, period. And they should be called for it, straight up.”