Sanders comes under fire for defending Cuba, Castro

Sanders calls himself a democratic socialist. (AFP pic)

WASHINGTON: Bernie Sanders, the US Democratic presidential frontrunner, came under fire Monday for defending part of the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s record.

In an interview that aired Sunday on CBS’s “60 Minutes”, the Vermont senator who calls himself a democratic socialist noted that after the 1959 Cuban revolution, its leader Castro led a widely successful literacy programme.

Sanders asked, “Is it bad, even if it was Fidel Castro who did it?”

Sanders stressed that he opposes “the authoritarian nature of the Cuban regime” but said it was unfair to call everything it has done over decades as wrong.

He even made the point to condemn the Americas’ only Communist regime for repressing dissidents.

Regardless, some of his rivals seized the chance to criticise Sanders as potentially unable to keep his socialism democratic.

Former vice president Joe Biden’s campaign said Sanders had a long habit of espousing the ideas of autocratic leaders.

“Bernie’s comments indicate he either fails to understand the pain and suffering that Fidel Castro, Nicolas Maduro, and Daniel Ortega have caused to so many people, including Americans now living here, or worse, that his ideology blinds him to the realities of life in these countries,” Biden adviser Cristobal Alex said.

Billionaire former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg said Castro’s long legacy of repression was so dark and vast that talking about literacy was ludicrous.

“Fidel Castro left a dark legacy of forced labor camps, religious repression, widespread poverty, firing squads, and the murder of thousands of his own people. But sure, Bernie, let’s talk about his literacy program,” Bloomberg tweeted.