Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL) on Monday decried Democrat primary frontrunner Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) for praising aspects of communist dictator Fidel Castro’s revolution in Cuba.
“As the first South American immigrant member of Congress who proudly represents thousands of Cuban Americans, I find Senator Bernie Sanders’ comments on Castro’s Cuba absolutely unacceptable,” Mucarsel-Powell wrote on Twitter “The Castro regime murdered and jailed dissidents, and caused unspeakable harm to too many South Florida families. To this day, it remains an authoritarian regime that oppresses its people, subverts the free press, and stifles a free society.”
The Castro regime murdered and jailed dissidents, and caused unspeakable harm to too many South Florida families. To this day, it remains an authoritarian regime that oppresses its people, subverts the free press, and stifles a free society.
— Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (@DebbieforFL) February 24, 2020
Mucarsel-Powell’s criticism came in response to Sanders asserting in an interview with CBS News’ 60 Minutes that “it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad” about Castro’s regime, noting that he’s “very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba.”
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) February 24, 2020
“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?” asked Sanders in response to host Anderson Cooper pressing the Vermont senator over his comments suggesting that the Cuban people did not overthrow Castro because he had provided them health care and education.
As Breitbart News reported, Sanders’ recounting of Cuban history under Castro glossed over key details:
He did not mention the multiple revolts against Castro that did occur, including the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion sabotaged by Democrat President John F. Kennedy and the waves of protests that resulted in the brutal “Black Spring” crackdown of 2003.
Prior to Castro, Cuba was Latin America’s wealthiest nation, significantly wealthier than some U.S. states. It already boasted high rates of literacy under Batista. Batista’s Cuba spent more on education than any Western European nation and the United States at the time.
In addition to Mucarsel-Powell, Sanders was met with condemnation from Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL), who tweeted that she hopes “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.”
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. https://t.co/Iwvmay9LOH pic.twitter.com/KT9sQ0pfkh
— Donna E. Shalala (@DonnaShalala) February 24, 2020
Gwen Graham, a former congresswoman who once ran for governor of Florida, reacted to the quote on social media with an exasperated gif.
— Gwen Graham (@GwenGraham) February 24, 2020
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) tweeted that Sanders is “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,” he wrote.
The blowback facing Sanders comes after the Vermont senator won the Nevada caucuses on Saturday. Earlier Feburary, the presidential candidate was victorious in the New Hampshire primary and won the popular vote in the Iowa caucuses. His momentum going into the South Carolina primary and the subsequent Super Tuesday election means he is likely to lead his White House rival in delegates before the July’s Democrat National Convention, where the party will choose its nominee to take on President Donald Trump in a general election contest.