Bernie Sanders has praised Fidel Castro’s ‘massive literacy program’, standing by comments he made praising the dictator’s rule of Cuba in the 1980s.
The Democratic frontrunner, 78, defended the Communist regime as ‘not all bad’ during a wide-ranging 60 Minutes interview which aired Sunday.
In it he told Anderson Cooper: ‘We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad. You know?
‘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?’
Sanders had said of dictator Castro in 1985: ‘He educated their kids, gave them health care, totally transformed the society, you know?’
Castro ruled Cuba for nearly half a century. A Cold War foe of the U.S., Castro’s government imprisoned dissidents and imposed one-party rule on the island nation. He died at the age of 90 in 2016.
Probed on the dissidents imprisoned in the country, Sanders replied: ‘That’s right. And we condemn that. Unlike Donald Trump, let’s be clear…I do not think that Kim Jong Un is a good friend.
‘I don’t trade love letters with a murdering dictator. Vladimir Putin, not a great friend of mine.’
Bernie Sanders has praised Fidel Castro’s ‘massive literacy program’, standing by comments he made praising the dictator’s rule of Cuba in the 1980s
Fidel Castro and his brother Raul attend a parade December 2, 1996 in Havana, Cuba
Sanders had said of dictator Castro in the 1980s, pictured: ‘He educated their kids, gave them health care, totally transformed the society, you know?’
‘SHOCKED’ TO BE A FRONTRUNNER
The self proclaimed Democratic socialist won a decisive victory Saturday in the Nevada caucuses, solidifying his frontrunner status in the race to choose the Democratic nominee who faces President Donald Trump in November’s election.
The 78-year-old senator from Vermont was leading with about 46 percent, followed by former vice president Joe Biden at 19 percent.
But even for Sanders the results are ‘shocking’, adding: ‘The ideas that seemed radical four years ago are now kind of mainstream.
‘When Donald Trump was a private businessman in New York, he got $800 million in tax breaks and subsidies to build luxury housing. That’s called corporate socialism.
‘What democratic socialism is about is saying, ‘Let’s use the federal government to protect the interests of working families.’
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., smiles while the crowd chants his name during a campaign event on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020, in Austin, Texas
Sanders, right, labeled rival Mike Bloomberg’s, left, stop and frisk policy as ‘racist’
BLOOMBERG’S STOP AND FRISK POLICY WAS ‘RACIST’
Labeling rival Mike Bloomberg’s stop and frisk policy as ‘racist’, Sanders added: ‘I think the more people understand Bloomberg’s record as mayor of New York, where he engaged in horrifically racist policies of stop and frisk, people in America don’t want that.’
He added: ‘I think this is the problem of a Bloomberg candidacy. It’s not just my supporters, he is not going to be a strong candidate. But, what I have said, and you quoted me correctly, is I said on day one I will support the Democratic nominee, no matter who that nominee may be.’
Admitting he ‘does not talk about personal stuff that much’, Sanders said his upbringing in Brooklyn, New York, shaped his political beliefs.
But added: ‘I’m a kind of a private person in a sense. And you know, I’m not particularly anxious to tell the world about everything personal in my life.’
Other topics touched on included how he plans to fund Medicare for All.
Sanders admitted: ‘You know, I can’t rattle off to you ever nickel and every dime. But we have accounted for..Medicare for All. We have options out there that will pay for it.’
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and his wife Jane Sanders arrive for a campaign rally at Vic Mathias Shores Park on February 23, 2020 in Austin, Texas
FUNDING MEDICARE FOR ALL
But despite offering no firm financial plans with universal healthcare Sanders now says he wants to also introduce universal childcare for children up to the age of four, adding: ‘We have a tax on wealth to pay for that.
‘You know, I get a little bit tired of hearing my opponents saying “Gee, how you going to pay for a program that impacts and helps children or working-class families or middle-class families? How you going to pay for that?”
‘And yet, where are people saying, “How are you going to pay for over $750 billion on military spending?” How you going to pay for a trillion dollars in tax breaks to the 1% in large corporations which was what Trump did? When you help the billionaires and you help Wall Street, “Hey! Of course we can pay for it. That’s what America’s supposed to be about.” Well, I disagree.’
TAKING ON TRUMP
Sanders, who says he is looking forward to taking on President Donald Trump, said: ‘Anyone who tells you that Donald Trump is not gonna be a tough opponent is kidding themselves. The way you beat Trump is bring nontraditional voters into the political process.
‘We will bring up is that the president of the United States is a pathological liar. And it is increasingly clear that many people just don’t believe anything that he says.
‘He is a fraud. I look forward to taking him on.’
The democratic socialist who has emerged as a frontrunner in the race to the White House
Bernie Sanders is no stranger to controversy when it comes to comments about America’s Cold War enemies.
In 1972 he told a group of Vermont high school students that the United States’ actions in Vietnam were ‘almost as bad as what Hitler did.’
Sanders, who was 31 years old at the time, was running as the candidate for the Liberty Union Party, which was an offshoot of the antiwar movement.
The then-Burlington mayor praised Cuba’s late communist ruler Fidel Castro during a lecture in 1986.
‘I remember being very excited when Fidel Castro made the revolution in Cuba,’ Sanders is seen telling students at the University of Vermont in 1986.
‘It seemed right and appropriate that poor people were rising up against ugly rich people.’
Sandersalso told the students how he became so disillusioned by John F. Kennedy when he ran for president in the early 1960s that he wanted to ‘puke’ because of his hardline anti-communist stance.
During his unsuccessful bid to defeat Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary in 2015-16, a video from 1985 was dredged up in which Sanders is seen heaping praise on Castro.
The grainy 1985 interview footage from Chittenden County, Vermont, shows Sanders praising Castro’s policies on education, health care and society in general.
At the time, Sanders had been on a recent trip to Nicaragua to observe the sixth anniversary of the Sandinista regime.
He compared Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega – who is now president of Nicaragua – to Castro.
‘In 1961, [America] invaded Cuba, and everybody was totally convinced that Castro was the worst guy in the world,’ he said.
‘All the Cuban people were going to rise up in rebellion against Fidel Castro.
‘They forgot that he educated their kids, gave their kids health care, totally transformed society.
‘You know, not to say Fidel Castro and Cuba are perfect – they are certainly not – but just because Ronald Reagan dislikes these people does not mean to say the people in these nations feel the same.’
Indeed Sanders was sharply critical of Reagan, who had just been overwhelmingly re-elected to a second term the year before.