Sanders faced scrutiny for initially remaining silent on the protests that erupted across Cuba over the weekend, before issuing a statement late Monday night. His statement urged the government to refrain from violence, but also criticized the U.S. for its trade embargo on the island country.
The protests could put Sanders in an awkward spot, given his consistent praise for the communist regime.
Sanders defended his past praise for deceased Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in an interview he gave last year as he was leading the Democratic presidential primary.
“We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but, you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad,” Sanders said in a “60 Minutes” interview. “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?”
Video footage unearthed last year showed Sanders recalling his excitement for the communist revolution during a speech in the 1980s.
“I remember, for some reason or another, being very excited when [former Cuban dictator] Fidel Castro made the revolution in Cuba,” he said, while speaking at the University of Vermont in 1986. “I was a kid … and it just seemed right and appropriate that poor people were rising up against rather ugly rich people.”
During that speech, Sanders said he almost had to “puke” when he saw former President John F. Kennedy push his opponent at the time, former President Richard Nixon, to be tougher on Cuba. “For the first time in my adult life, what I was seeing is the Democrats and Republicans … clearly that there really wasn’t a whole lot of difference between the two,” he said.
Sanders’ other comments have included praising bread lines and Soviet public transportation; defending Castro as someone in Cuba who “educated their kids, gave their kids health care, totally transformed the society”; and mocking criticism of the Marxist Sandinista regime in Nicaragua.
Sanders’ office didn’t return an email from Fox News inquiring whether he regrets any of his past comments about Cuba.
Fox News’ Sam Dorman contributed reporting.