Bernie China

Bernie Justifies Past Praise for Communist Dictators at Dem Debate

Sen. Bernie Sanders defended previous praise for communist nations with a record of human rights abuses during a Democratic presidential debate hosted by CNN on Sunday evening.

“Shouldn’t we judge dictators by the violation of human rights and not by any other of their alleged achievements?” co-moderator Ilia Calderon asked the Vermont senator, referencing Cuba’s decades-long status as a dictatorship.

Sanders replied by comparing the Cuban regime to Communist China.

“China is undoubtedly an authoritarian society. But would any economist deny that extreme poverty in China today is much less than what it was forty or fifty years ago,” he said. “That’s a fact.”

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Sanders said in February that China has “taken more people out of extreme poverty than any country in history.”

He has also refused to disavow his praise for aspects of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s regime.

In a 1985 video, which resurfaced last year, Sanders praised Sandinista leaders for their “intelligence and sincerity” and their “very deep convictions.”

He also called Nicaragua’s authoritarian president, Daniel Ortega, an “impressive guy” and Father d’Escoto, then the country’s minister of foreign affairs, a “very gentle, very loving man.”

Sanders faced off Sunday against Joe Biden, who is also vying to win his party’s nomination and face President Donald Trump in the November election.

Biden criticized Sanders’ remarks about the communist nations.

“The idea of occasionally saying something nice about a country is one thing. The idea of praising a country that is violating human rights around the world makes our allies wonder what’s going on,” the former vice president said.

The showdown between front-runner Biden and his last viable rival in Sanders, originally scheduled for Phoenix, took place in a Washington studio with no audience, a move made to limit possible exposure to the virus – a sign of how deeply the campaign routine has been reshaped by the global pandemic.

When the two candidates took the stage, they smiled and shared an elbow bump – abiding by the advice of public health officials to avoid handshakes.

Biden committed to choosing a woman as his running mate if he is the Democratic nominee.

“If I’m elected president, my Cabinet, my administration, will look like the country, and I commit that I will in fact appoint and pick a woman as vice president,” he said.

Both candidates used the debate, perhaps the last in the Democratic White House race, as an opportunity to project leadership and a sense of stability in the deepening crisis.

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(Reuters contributed to this report.)

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