Bernie Sanders Doubles Down On Castro Comments By Defending Communist China

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders doubled down on his Sunday comments praising former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s “massive literacy program” during a Monday night CNN town hall, then attempted to bolster his logic by claiming that Communist China took “more people out of extreme poverty than any country in history.”

“We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba, but, you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad,” Sanders told “60 Minutes” on Sunday. “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?”

The Independent Vermont senator’s comments drew criticism from both sides of the political spectrum, including Democratic Florida Rep. Donna Shalala, who tweeted that Sanders should “speak to some” of her Cuban constituents before singing “the praises of a murderous tyrant.”

CNN host Chris Cuomo asked Sanders about the “stigma that’s coming from some of your fellow Democrats.”

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“They’re attacking your comment as absolutely unacceptable, singing the praises of a murderous tyrant,” said Cuomo.

“When Castro first came to power … you know what he did?” Sanders asked. “He initiated a major literacy program. There was a lot of folks in Cuba at that point who were illiterate. And he formed a literacy brigade that went out and helped people learn to write. I think teaching people to read and write is a good thing.”

“I have been extremely consistent and critical of all authoritarian regimes all over the world including Cuba, including Nicaragua, including Saudi Arabia, including China, including Russia,” he continued. “I happen to believe in democracy, not authoritarianism. But you know, you can take China as another example. China is an authoritarian country becoming more and more authoritarian. But can anyone deny, I mean the facts are clear, that they have taken more people out of extreme poverty than any country in history. Do I get criticized because I say that? That’s the truth. So that is a fact. End of discussion.” (RELATED: Bernie Sanders Loses It When Bloomberg Calls Him The ‘Best Known Socialist’ Who ‘Happens To Be A Millionaire With Three Houses’)

Cuomo pushed back by wondering why one would give a dictator like Castro “a pat on the back for anything.”

“Truth is truth, all right?” Sanders responded before claiming that the members of Congress who disagree “just so happen to be supporting other candidates.”

Sanders told Hill.TV’s Krystal Ball last August that, though China is authoritarian, “they have made more progress in addressing extreme poverty than any country in the history of civilization, so they’ve done a lot of things for their people.”

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