Sanders: China Took More People Out of Extreme Poverty Than Any Country in History

Melanie Arter | February 25, 2020 | 3:03pm EST
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(Photo by PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images)

( –  Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) again heaped praise on the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro during CNN’s Democratic presidential town hall debate on Monday night for starting a literacy program for the Cuban people in the beginning of his regime.

Sanders said he has been consistently critical of all authoritarian regimes around the world, including China, which he said lifted “more people out of extreme poverty than any country in history.”


CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked Sanders about remarks he made about Castro during CBS’s “60 Minutes” interview. 

As reported, Sanders said in the “60 Minutes interview, “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?”

Cuomo: Let’s take one more step down the road from the stigma from some of your fellow Democrats. You said on 60 Minutes this weekend, It is unfair to say that everything bad with the way that Fidel Castro ruled in Cuba. Now Democratic members of Congress who represent Cuban Americans in Florida, they're attacking your comment as absolutely unacceptable, singing the praises of a murderous tyrant. Response.

Sanders: The response was when Castro first came to power – which was when? 59? 

Cuomo: 59-60

Sanders: Okay, you know what he did? He initiated a major literacy program. There was a lot of folks in Cuba at that point who are illiterate, and he formed a brigade – you may read that - that went out and helped people learn to write. 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. 

I happen to believe in democracy, not authoritarianism. You can take China as another example. China is an authoritarian country becoming more and more authoritarian, 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. Do I get criticized, because I say that? That’s the truth. So that is the fact. End of discussion.

Cuomo: So the Democrats who say you don't say good things about Fidel Castro. He destroyed freedoms in that country. He played, picks winners and losers and killed them and put them in prison forever. You don't give him a pat on the back for anything.

Sanders: Truth is truth. All right? If you want to disagree with me, if somebody wants to say that -- and by the way all of the Congress people that you mentioned just so happen to be supporting other candidates, coincidentally, but you know, the truth is the truth, and that’s what happened in the first years of the Castro regime. 



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