“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 on CBS’ “60 Minutes” in an interview that aired Sunday. “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 to the notable number of dissidents imprisoned in Cuba, 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,” he said. “I don’t trade love letters with a murdering dictator. Vladimir Putin, not a great friend of mine.”
Castro, who died in 2016, drew scores of admirers and detractors as he clung to a socialist economic model and one-party Communist rule, even after the Soviet Union disintegrated.
Sanders’ comments drew push back online Sunday night, including from Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala of Florida who tweeted, “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.”
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio also rebuked Sanders’ remarks, stating, “he’s wrong about why people didn’t overthrow Castro. It’s not because ‘he educated their kids, gave them health care’ it’s because his opponents were jailed, murdered or exiled.”