Sanders shares Obama's clip lauding Fidel Castro after drawing flak for praising the Cuban dictator

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders came under fire after he heaped praises on education and medical policies of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro

Democratic front-runner Bernie Sanders, who drew flak for praising the success of former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, shared a clip of President Obama doing the same. In the video, President Barack Obama can be seen lauding the education and medical accomplishments of the former Cuban dictator.

Bernie Sanders-Fidel Castro controversy

Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro Wikimedia Commons

In a "60 Minutes" interview, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders praised the former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro for his social programs. "We're very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but you know, it's unfair to simply say everything is bad," Sanders said. "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?" he added. His remarks were quickly weaponised by his Democratic opponents.

"Fidel Castro left a dark legacy of forced labour camps, religious repression, widespread poverty, firing squads, and the murder of thousands of his own people. But sure, Bernie, let's talk about his literacy program," Michael Bloomberg tweeted.

Sanders defends remark

Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders Instagram/@berniesanders

Sanders defended his remarks on CNN at the South Carolina town hall. He said, "When Fidel Castro first came into power, you know what he did? He initiated a major literacy program. It was a lot of folks in Cuba at that point who were illiterate and he formed the Literacy Brigade and they went out and they helped people learn to read and write You know what? 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," he continued, drawing applause from the crowd.

"I happen to believe in democracy, not authoritarianism. China is an authoritarian country, but can anyone deny, I mean the facts are clear, that they have taken more people out of extreme poverty than any country in history. Why you criticize when I say that, that's the truth. So that is the fact. End of discussion."

Barrack Obama did the same

The issue was debated during South Carolina primary debate on Tuesday, February 25. "What I said was what Barrack Obama said in terms of Cuba. Cuba made progress in education," drawing booes from the crowd. On Wednesday, he tweeted a video in which President Barrack Obama praised Cuba's progress in education and health-care.

"I said this to President Castro in Cuba. Look you've made great progress in educating young people...Medical care. The life expectancy of Cubans is equivalent to the United States despite it being a very poor country because they have access to health care," President Obama said.

About Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro ruled Cuba and established the first communist regime in the western hemisphere and ruled the nation as a dictator, from 1959-2008. Though he is credited with several successful social programs, widespread human rights violations led to thousands of Cubans fleeing to the United States for refuge.