Sen. Bernie Sanders largely avoided having to defend his positive remarks about Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro during the tenth Democratic debate in Charleston, South Carolina on Tuesday night, but he had plenty more praise to heap on the deceased tyrant after the candidates left the stage.
"Cuba is a dictatorship. I've said that 8 million times, but that does not mean to say, as Obama pointed out, even under a dictatorship, you can teach people to read and write and to provide health care to all people," Bernie said after the #DemDebate pic.twitter.com/ju1dxOwoLn— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) February 26, 2020
During post-debate analysis, Sanders rode the confidence he gained from an unflinching debate performance to reiterate his remarks about the authoritarian Cuban revolutionary who massacred thousands of his own people. "Truth is Truth,” Sanders said matter-of-factly about his compliment of Castro’s literacy program. “If somebody in Saudi Arabia or any country in the world teaches illiterate people to read ... you're telling me that's a bad thing? It is not."
Sanders then noted that former President Barack Obama had made similar comments about Castro during his time in the White House. "Barack Obama made the point that Cuba had made good progress in healthcare and education," Sanders said. "Cuba is an authoritarian country. I have decried and condemned authoritiannrism, whether it's on the left or the right, all over the world." And Sanders isn’t wrong here, Obama most certainly gave praise to the Cuban education and healthcare systems on several occasions during his time in the White House.
But Obama was wrong, too. While he praised Cuba for providing a solid education for young children and providing low cost healthcare to all citizens, he left out key factors that resulted directly from the authoritarian and oppressive regime that has plagued the tiny island nation for decades. Obama’s compliments, which Sanders so readily cites in his own unsolicited praise of elements of the authoritarian government, left out the dilapidated schools, the untrained teachers, and unattended classrooms. The system which Obama referred to as one that “values every boy and girl,” failed to note the high rate that teachers fled the schools in search of better pay, receiving an average monthly salary of about $25.
But according to Sanders, who apparently said “8 million times” that Cuba is under a dictatorship, this education system was an example of a bright shining success of imperfect authoritarianism. Similarly lauding the medical system in Cuba, Sanders said on Tuesday night, “even under a dictatorship, you can teach people to read and write and to provide health care to all people.”
Actually, the assertion that Cuba is able to “provide health care to all people,” also leaves out quite a few disturbing truths. Like many of the schools, hospitals and medical centers in Cuba are falling apart and are in unsanitary conditions. Often, patients are asked to bring their own supplies, like bedding, because the medical system can’t afford to provide them. The long life expectancy touted by so many when praising Cuba is true, but because of communism the rate of improvement in overall health and longevity over the past 60 years has stagnated.
No Sanders was not praising Castro as an idol whom he aspires to emulate should he inherit the keys to the White House but praising any element of his disastrous and murderous regime is a dangerous precedent that parrots communist propaganda. And for some reason, other Democrats seem happy to let Sanders is get away with it.