Sanders lauded Castro’s “literacy brigade” on ’60 Minutes’ on Sunday and said that although he’s “very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba…it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad.”
“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?” he said.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., the chief sponsor of the proposal, is a Cuban-American whose family fled Castro’s regime. His aunt was Castro’s first wife, according to Politico.
The vote could complicate reelection efforts for vulnerable Democrats in tight House races, especially for those concerned having Sanders at the top of the ticket could cost them their seat in November.
“Do they stand with Bernie or do they stand for freedom?” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said when making the announcement.
Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-Fla., said she found his remarks “unacceptable,” according to Politico.
“Stalin doubled literacy in the Soviet Union, even as he murdered tens of millions of people,” Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., tweeted. “Apologists for dictatorship – Cuba, Russia, Saudi Arabia – always say ‘they do some bad things, and some good things.’ It’s a way of making them seem just like us. It’s utterly wrong.”
Both Democrats are in swing districts.
At Tuesday evening’s debate, Sanders defended his comments, saying they were similar to what former President Obama “said in terms of Cuba — that Cuba made progress on education.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden told Sanders Obama “did not in any way suggest that there was anything positive about the Cuban government” and he has “never embraced an authoritarian regime.”
Biden also told Fox News this week, “I don’t think you should ever give praise to dictators.”