During the Democratic debate in South Carolina, Sanders was asked about comments he made, claiming that China had brought more people out of poverty than any other country in the world. As well as saying he thought Castro’s literacy program was a “good thing.”
Sanders was asked if Americans could trust that he wouldn’t give authoritarian governments a “free pass” after he said that Castro’s literacy program was good.
“What I said is what Barack Obama said in terms of Cuba. That Cuba made progress on education,” Sanders said, drawing boos from the crowd.
“Really? Really? Literacy programs are bad? What Barack Obama said is they made great progress on education and healthcare,” Sanders responded.
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As other candidates tried to interject, Sanders pressed on to say that authoritarian regimes should be recognized when they “do something good.”
“Occasionally, it might be a good idea, to be honest about American foreign policy. And that includes the fact that America has overthrown governments all over the world. In Chile, in Guatemala, in Iran. And when dictatorships, whether it is the Chinese or the Cubans, do something good, you acknowledge that.”
Biden pushed back, “Barack Obama was abroad, he was in a town meeting. He did not, in any way, suggest that there was anything positive about the Cuban government.”
“He acknowledged that they did increase life expectancy. But he went on and condemned the dictatorship. He went on and condemned the people who, in fact, had run that committee,” he added.
“But the fact of the matter is, he, in fact, does not, did not, has never embraced an authoritarian regime. And does not now. And this man said that in fact, he thought it was … he did not condemn what they did.”
Sanders did say he condemned Castro’s treatment of the people of Cuba. But he also said he thought Castro’s literacy programs were good.
Sanders’ comments have drawn criticism. Despite the criticism, Sanders did not show any sign of walking back his comments.