Self-styled “democratic socialist” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) — the clear frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination after an easy victory in Nevada Saturday — was met with widespread backlash Sunday after he praised Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Sanders’ praise of the tyrannical communist leader, made on CBS News’ “60 Minutes” with Anderson Cooper, echoed another much-criticized compliment of Castro by social justice activist Colin Kaepernick, who famously found himself flooded with boos when he took the field soon afterward in Miami.
Pressed Sunday by host Anderson Cooper about his past positive comments about various murderous communist regimes, Sanders said, “You know? 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’ praise of Castro is almost identical to that offered by Kaepernick back in 2016, his final year in the league, a few days before a game in Miami against the Dolphins. The then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback was asked by a Cuban-American Miami Herald reporter about a T-shirt he wore to a press conference in August featuring an image of Castro meeting with Malcolm X in 1960 with the caption, “Like minds think alike.”
After trying to dodge the question, Kaepernick responded, “One thing that Fidel Castro did do is they have the highest literacy rate because they invest more in their education system than they do in their prison system — which we do not do here, even though we’re fully capable of doing that.”
When the reporter, who came from a family of Cuban refugees, brought up Castro’s tyrannical actions that broke up families, Kaepernick shrugged it off by accusing America of doing the same thing.
“We do break up families here,” said Kaepernick, as reported by the Palm Beach Post. “That’s what mass incarceration is. That was the foundation of slavery, so our country has been based on that as well as the genocide of Native Americans.”
When the reporter called out Kaepernick for trying to draw a moral equivalence between Castro’s long history of destroying his own people’s lives to maintain his political power to the American criminal justice system punishing criminals, Kaepernick said, “I’m equating the breaking up of families with the breaking up of families.”
When Kaepernick took the field in Miami a few days later, he was met with deafening boos. Watch via Fox NFL:
Kaepernick’s 49ers went on to lose to the Dolphins 31 to 24. When the embattled quarterback had a chance to tie the game in the last play, he came up two yards short, inspiring loud cheers and more boos from the Miami fans.
As The Daily Wire highlighted, among those who criticized Sanders for his Kaepernick-esque praise of Castro is left-wing CNN commentator Ana Navarro, who tweeted: “Castro regime’s been in power in Cuba for +60 yrs w/o free elections. They’ve killed, jailed, tortured thousands. They confiscated assets, expelled priests & nuns… And let’s be clear, Cubans weren’t exactly communicating by grunts. Most knew how to read.”
“I was in 2nd Grade when Sandinistas came to power in Nicaragua,” she added in a follow-up tweet. “They adopted Cuban education model. The books/curriculum taught ideological indoctrination. Children had to recite communist, revolutionary, anti-American slogans. That’s how communist teach people to read and write.”
Castro regime’s been in power in Cuba for +60 yrs w/o free elections. They’ve killed, jailed, tortured thousands. They confiscated assets, expelled priests & nuns… And let’s be clear, Cubans weren’t exactly communicating by grunts. Most knew how to read. pic.twitter.com/kKGM66a8ci
— Ana Navarro-Cárdenas (@ananavarro) February 24, 2020
When Castro died in 2016, shortly after Kaepernick’s comments, the Daily Wire provided some highlights of Castro’s human rights atrocities, including, the following statistics from the Cuba Archive president:
It is difficult to calculate how many Cuban political dissidents and innocent civilians Castro killed throughout his fifty-year “revolutionary” reign, but Cuba Archive President Maria Werlau estimates 78,000 innocents have died trying to flee slavery under Castro; 5,300 peasant farmers and their children in the Escambray Mountains and at the Bay of Pigs; 14,000 in Fidel’s escapades abroad; 5,600 dissidents in front of firing squads; 1,200 in “extrajudicial assassinations”; and 2,199 documented political prison deaths. Welau notes, however, that these numbers are conservative estimates, and the actual casualties may number an order of magnitude more.