Democratic Party front runner Bernie Sanders found himself under attack from Democratic members of Congress on Monday, upset by his comments Sunday from an interview with the CBS show, "60 Minutes," in which he praised some of the social work done by Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
"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," said Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL), whose district contains the heavily Cuban-American communities near Calle Ocho.
"I find Senator Bernie Sanders’ comments on Castro’s Cuba absolutely unacceptable," added Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL), who noted the Cuban-Americans in her south Florida district.
Speaking about Castro on '60 Minutes,' Sanders noted literacy efforts by Castro.
"Is that a bad thing?" Sanders asked rhetorically.
For many Democrats from Florida - the answer is a resounding 'yes.'
"Castro was a murderous dictator who oppressed his own people," said Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), who holds a swing seat in the Orlando area. "His “literacy program” wasn’t altruistic."
For Cuban American voters, hearing @BernieSanders praise murderous, totalitarian dictator Fidel Castro’s regime for ‘literacy programs’ is like telling the Jewish community Hitler wasn’t so awful because the Third Reich invented the Volkswagen automobile👇🏼pic.twitter.com/vAJX2ffbSQ— Fernand R. Amandi (@AmandiOnAir) February 24, 2020
On 60 Minutes, Bernie says it’s ‘unfair to say everything is bad’ about Cuban revolution https://t.co/zGy9VyFtWA— Miami Herald (@MiamiHerald) February 24, 2020
Unlike many other states, Sanders has struggled in the polls in Florida - the most recent survey put him well behind Michael Bloomberg and Joe Biden in the Sunshine State.
And the reaction of Democrats to these latest Cuba remarks by Sanders show how much of a role Cuban-American politics still play in the state.
"@BernieSanders’ glorification of socialism omits Castro’s forceful imposition of power attacking human rights and freedom of speech, minimizing those who fought to break free from his suffocating hand," said Francis Suarez, the mayor of Miami.
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. https://t.co/Iwvmay9LOH pic.twitter.com/KT9sQ0pfkh— Donna E. Shalala (@DonnaShalala) February 24, 2020
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.— Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (@DebbieforFL) February 24, 2020
.@SenSanders comments on Fidel Castro are ill-informed & insulting to thousands of Floridians. Castro was a murderous dictator who oppressed his own people. His “literacy program” wasn’t altruistic; it was a cynical effort to spread his dangerous philosophy & consolidate power.— Stephanie Murphy (@SMurphyCongress) February 24, 2020
Republicans were more than happy to jab at Sanders as well, coming 24 years to the day that two planes belonging to Cuban-American activists - who tried to help rafters getting away from Cuba - were shot down by Cuban Air Force jets, killing four people from the groups Brothers to the Rescue.
"Today we remember Carlos, Pablo, Mario & Armando who were killed by the Cuban regime for taking a stand against the oppressive government that @SenSanders praises," Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) said on Twitter.
"We honor their bravery and we will continue to shed light on the atrocities from this murderous regime," Scott added.