Election 2020

Firing Squads With a Side of Literacy: Bernie Sanders Praises Fidel Castro

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

On Sunday night, Democratic frontrunner Bernie Sanders (S-USSR) once again revealed his true colors by praising Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Sure, the totalitarian communist thug would line up political dissenters at the firing squad, but at least he made sure they could read, first!

“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 said in an interview with 60 Minutes.

He also suggested that the Cuban people didn’t remove Castro from power because “he educated their kids, gave them health care, totally transformed the society, you know?” In reality, the counter-revolution against Castro’s revolution failed because the Cuban dictator silenced dissidents via firing squad.

“It really makes a difference when those you murder at the firing squad can read & write,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) quipped in response.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), another Cuban-American who represents a state with a large Cuban-American population, explained why Sanders was dead wrong about Castro’s regime. “Likely Dem nominee praised the supposed “achievements” Castro regime,” Rubio tweeted. “And he’s 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.”

Sanders’ statement confirmed the fears of both Republicans and Democrats that his “democratic socialism” has far more authoritarian overtones than the septuagenarian senator lets on. Bernie would not support firing squads, of course — but it would prove almost impossible to foist a socialist revolution on the U.S. What happens when American consumers aren’t happy with their 1-2 choices of deodorant? What happens when Congress and the Supreme Court say “no” to Bernie’s new “fundamental rights”? What happens when Bernie has taxed the “rich” to the gills and still finds himself trillions short of the money he needs to finance his socialist programs?

Then Fidel Castro’s ugly totalitarian tactics might seem rather tempting to the frustrated Bernie Sanders. They’re already far more than tempting to some of Bernie’s campaign staffers.

Bernie Sanders is already comfortable praising a dictator who literally canceled Christmas and killed between 2,000 and 33,000 — a mid-range of 15,000 —in a country of only 7 million people — in per capita terms, that is the equivalent of 680,000 executions in the United States, the entire population of Denver or Seattle. Cuba still keeps political prisoners — from January to August of 2014, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation received over 7,188 reports of arbitrary detentions, and there were at least 97 known current political prisoners in 2016.

Sanders’ support for Castro is not just terrifying and historically inaccurate — it’s also a serious political liability in the critical swing state of Florida. When Fidel Castro died in 2016, Cuban-Americans celebrated in the streets of Miami. Cuban-Americans proved crucial for George W. Bush’s 2000 win.

Political strategist Rory Cooper said it best. “Say goodbye to Florida. And prepare to spend money in New Jersey. If he’s the nominee.”

Rubio didn’t stop at rebutting Sanders’ historically inaccurate praise for Castro. He noted the democratic socialist’s support for Venezuela, as well.

“In 2011 Bernie Sanders wrote that ‘These days, the American dream is more apt to be realized …in places such as…Venezuela’ than in America. Today, 1/3 of Venezuelans are hungry,” the senator tweeted.

Indeed, Nicolás Maduro, the socialist president of the failed state of Venezuela, endorsed Bernie Sanders in 2016. Sanders has bucked his own party by not supporting Juan Guaido as the legitimate Venezuelan president. He has also refused to condemn Maduro as a dictator.

Sanders’ outright support for socialism is bad enough, and his flirtations with Maduro and Castro are even more troubling. His recent comments about Castro fall in line with his history, however. He said he didn’t mind being called a communist (although he very much minds now). He infamously honeymooned in the Soviet Union in the 1980s and worked with various Marxist political parties during his time as mayor of Burlington, Vermont. He endorsed Socialist Workers Party candidates for president in the 1980s when that party was pointing to Soviet-aligned countries like Nicaragua and Cuba as inspirations for U.S. policy. His support for this party prompted an FBI investigation.

Sanders is dangerous. His socialist-communist-USSR ties may undermine his ability to win the Democratic primary and they may doom Democrats in the general election if he is the nominee. Americans must not only refuse to elect him but rebuke his ideology. If Bernie Sanders becomes the 46th president of the United States, it may represent the ultimate victory for Soviet Russia’s Cold War aim — making the U.S. a socialist country.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.