Senator Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) praised Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes aired on Sunday.
“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. “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?”
When host Anderson Cooper pointed out that Cuba imprisons political dissidents, Sanders responded “That’s right. And we condemn that.”
“Unlike Donald Trump, let’s be clear, you want to — I do not think that Kim Jong-un is a good friend,” the senator went on. “I don’t trade love letters with a murdering dictator. Vladimir Putin, not a great friend of mine.”
Sanders’s comments received bipartisan criticism from Florida lawmakers.
“I’m hoping that in the future, Senator Sanders will take time to speak to some of my constituents before he decides to sing the praises of a murderous tyrant like Fidel Castro,” commented Representative Donna Shalala (D., Fla.), whose district encompasses a seaside area of Miami.
Sanders is “wrong about why people didn’t overthrow Castro,” said Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.). “It’s not because ‘he educated their kids, gave them health care’ it’s because his opponents were jailed, murdered or exiled.”
Sanders has in the past declined to name Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro as an authoritarian leader, and has a long history of favorable statements about Nicaraguan strongman Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas.