The Florida Democratic Party and presidential hopefuls blasted Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders over his comments about Fidel Castro on CBS’ “60 Minutes.”
asked Sanders about his previous support and praise of Fidel Castro, Cuba’s decades long dictator, who died in 2016.
"We're very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but you know, it's unfair to simply say everything is bad. You know?" Sanders said on the television program that aired Sunday night. "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 won Nevada in a landslide on Saturday and is now considered the clear front-runner in the race for the Democratic nomination.
Florida Democrats quickly pounced on Sanders’ Castro comments.
Rep. Donna Shalala from Miami-Dade tweeted, "I'm hoping that in the future, Senator Sanders will take time to speak to some of my constituents before he decides to sing the praises of a murderous tyrant like Fidel Castro.”
Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, also from Miami-Dade, tweeted Monday, "As the first South American immigrant member of Congress who proudly represents thousands of Cuban Americans, I find Senator Bernie Sanders' comments on Castro's Cuba absolutely unacceptable.”
Speaking at a CNN town hall in Charleston, South Carolina, on Monday, Sanders doubled down on his comments.
"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," Sanders said at the town hall. "I happen to believe in democracy, not authoritarianism."
Sanders said during a local television interview in 1985, that while Castro was not "perfect," it was important for Americans to know "just because Ronald Reagan dislikes these people, doesn't mean that people in their own nations feel the same way.”
The Chair of the Florida Democratic Party, Terrie Rizzo, took a swipe at Sanders but did not mention him by name.
"Florida Democrats condemn dictators who toppled democracies across the globe and stand in solidarity with the thousands of people who have fled violent dictatorships in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua,” Rizzo said in a prepared statement. “Candidates need to understand our immigrant communities’ shared stories, as well as provide solutions to issues that matter to all Floridians including access to affordable health care and rejecting a Trump economy that works only for the very rich.”
Meanwhile other presidential hopefuls on Monday also piled on.
“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,” tweeted Mike Bloomberg, the former Mayor of New York City. “But sure, Bernie, let’s talk about his literacy program.”
According to the most recent poll in Florida, Bloomberg is poised to win the Sunshine State on March 17.
Pete Buttigieg, the former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana also took a shot at Sanders.
“After four years of looking on in horror as Trump cozied up to dictators, we need a president who will be extremely clear in standing against regimes that violate human rights abroad,” Buttigiegtweeted. “We can't risk nominating someone who doesn't recognize this.”
"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. I happen to believe in democracy, not authoritarianism."