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Should We Agree with Bernie Sanders That Criticism of Castro’s Cuba Is Unfair?

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Some people like large Mediterranean snails boiled in olive oil, flavored with garlic and red pepper. Others would rather eat more standard table fare. But how about those who think that Fidel Castro’s Communist Cuba really wasn’t all that bad and shouldn’t be criticized? Do you think Bernie Sanders’ comments about Castro are a little bit unpalatable and out of touch with reality?

I don’t know if he has been eating snails, but it sounds like he has taken a fall and landed on his head! Bernie Sanders is an unashamed socialist and has had a big win in the Nevada caucus. Sanders was grilled by CNN’s Anderson Cooper about a number of issues, namely his past comments praising Fidel Castro. Instead of backtracking the comments, which sounded more like communist propaganda, Sanders chose to heap words of praise on Castro. Sanders said, “It’s unfair to simply say everything is bad. 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?”

That sounds like my grandfather. He was from southern Italy and my grandfather was always praising Benito Mussolini. He said Mussolini built roads all over rural Italy and was good for the Italian people. Toward the end of the war, the Italian people did not like Mussolini.

When Sanders praised Castro’s literacy program, Anderson Cooper quickly interjected and said, “A lot of dissidents in prison weren’t big fans of Castro simply because he had a literacy program.”

After Castro died in 2016, an alarming number of people were praising the murderous dictator and sugarcoating his legacy. Castro ended up looking like a Mother Teresa-type. Humberto Fontava, an author, columnist, public speaker, and political commentator wrote extensively about Castro and Castro’s Cuba. Fontova wrote that Castro jailed and tortured political prisoners at a higher rate than Stalin. Fontova wrote: “Fidel Castro shattered—through mass executions, mass jailings, mass larceny, and exile—virtually every family on the island of Cuba. Many opponents of the Castro regime qualify as the longest-suffering political prisoners in modern history, having suffered prison camps, forced labor and torture chambers. …”

According to scholars and researchers at the Cuba Archive, the Castro regime’s total death toll—from torture, prison beatings, firing squads, machine gunning of escapees, and drownings, approaches 100,000. According to the human rights group Freedom house, 500,000 Cubans (young and old, male and female) have passed through Castro’s prison and forced labor camps.

The Castro regime was a brutal one, and yet there are many in America who, along with Bernie Sanders, praise Fidel Castro. In 1984, two-time candidate for the Democratic  presidential nomination Jesse Jackson bellowed, while arm in arm with Fidel Castro, “Viva Fidel! Viva Che!” Jesse Jackson is supposed to be a freedom fighter, fighting for the oppressed. How can he praise an oppressor?!  George McGovern, Democratic presidential candidate, said “Fidel Castro is very shy and sensitive. I frankly like him and regard him as a friend.” Jimmy Carter, former president of the United States and elder statesman of the Democratic Party said, “Fidel Castro first and foremost is, and always has been, a committed egalitarian. He wanted a system that provided the basic needs to all Cuba, has superb systems of health care and universal education. … We greeted each other as old friends.”

NBC’s Andrea Mitchell said this about Fidel Castro—“Fidel Castro is old-fashioned, courtly—even paternal, a thoroughly fascinating figure!” And Dan Rather said, “Fidel Castro could have been Cuba’s Elvis!”

I pastored in the Florida Keys back in the 1970s. Our town was 90 miles from Havana. We had a lot of Cuban refugees. They were in the fishing business. They told me some horror stories of life in Cuba under Castro. No wonder many of them fled from Cuba in little boats, inner tubes, and floating tables. Death in the ocean was better than living in Cuba!

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