Bernie Sanders Refuses to Call Nicolás Maduro a Dictator

On Monday night, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential election, hemmed and hawed when asked if Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is a dictator.

“Senator, why have you stopped short of calling Maduro of Venezuela a dictator?” CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Sanders in a CNN town hall.

“Well… he … I, I think, it’s fair to say that the last election was undemocratic,” Sanders said, stumbling through his response.

Bernie Sanders, a self-declared democratic socialist, may feel compelled to defend his fellow socialist Nicolás Maduro. Of the repressive Maduro regime, the senator said, “But there are still democratic operations taking place in their country.”

Dodging the key issues of the disaster socialism has caused Venezuela, Bernie Sanders quickly pivoted to criticizing President Donald Trump.

“The point is what I am calling for right now is internationally supervised free elections, and I do find it interesting that Trump is very concerned about what goes on in Venezuela, but what about the last election that took place in Saudi Arabia?” the senator asked. “Oh, there wasn’t any election in Saudi Arabia. Oh, women are treated as third-class citizens.”

“So I find it interesting that Trump is kind of selective as to where he is concerned about democracy. My record is to be concerned about democracy all over the world,” Sanders insisted.

Rather than addressing how Venezuela fell apart thanks to socialism — his preferred political philosophy — Sanders concluded by insisting that “at the end of the day it is going to be the people of Venezuela who determine the future of their country, not the United States.”

While Sanders was refusing to call Maduro a dictator, a Univision crew led by Jorge Ramos was arbitrarily detained in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. What timing…

It was likely smart for Bernie Sanders to dodge on this question, as any discussion of socialism and Venezuela would rightly make him look horrible. Even so, his dodge and stumbling were quite notable.

Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.