Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said during Thursday night’s primary debate that his brand of democratic socialism has nothing to do with Venezuela’s socialism, calling Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro a “vicious tyrant.”
“Anybody that does what Maduro does is a vicious tyrant,” Sanders said in response to ABC moderator Jorge Ramos. “What we need now is international and regional cooperation for free elections in Venezuela so that the people of that country can make, can create their own future.”
“In terms of democratic socialism, to equate what goes on in Venezuela with what I believe is extremely unfair,” the Vermont Independent said. “I agree with [what] goes on in Canada and Scandinavia, guaranteeing health care to all people as a human right. I believe that the United States should not be the only major country on earth not to provide paid family and medical leave.”
“You got three people in America owning more wealth than the bottom half of this country. You got a handful of billionaires controlling what goes on in Wall Street, the insurance companies and in the media. Maybe, just maybe, what we should be doing is creating an economy that works for all of us, not 1 percent,” Sanders said. “That’s my understanding of democratic socialism.”
Obama administration Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro was more blunt in his take.
“I’ll call Maduro a dictator. Because he is a dictator,” Castro said from the debate state.
Venezuela has been in the throes of a political and humanitarian crisis which has resulted in clashes between opposition forces and Maduro’s regime. Earlier this year, clashes broke out in the streets of the capital, Caracas, and armored military trucks of troops loyal to Maduro have been caught on video in May plowing into crowds of opposition protesters.
The U.S. has levied heavy sanctions on Venezuela in an effort to cripple Maduro’s regime. The Trump administration has also pledged nearly $56 million in additional aid to partners in the region working to aid the Venezuelan people, many of whom are starving.