Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D., Fla.) criticized Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) Monday for his "extremely hurtful" praise of deceased Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
"I represent thousands of Cuban-American families that have fled the brutal dictatorship under the Castro regime and, yes, [the comments] are completely unacceptable," Mucarsel-Powell said Monday night on CNN. "The Cuban regime continues to oppress its people. It continues to cause unspeakable harm to thousands of families. It's actually currently propping up another brutal dictatorship in Venezuela. Those comments are extremely hurtful to so many people here in my area and very offensive."
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Over the weekend, Sanders said some criticism of Castro was "very unfair" because he "had a massive literacy program." Mucarsel-Powell pushed back and said the Castro regime's programs could not make up for the terrible conditions they forced on regular Cubans.
"There is a saying here in South Florida by many Cubans, that they say, ‘Castro may have given us health care and education but he didn't give us breakfast, lunch, or dinner,'" Mucarsel-Powell said.
"The reason why the Cuban people have not been able to rise up is because he has targeted many of its dissidents, by jailing them and many times even murdering them," she continued. "So that is why the Cuban people continue to be oppressed. And I will continue to stand up for my community against any harmful policies or comments like the one the senator made."
She stressed that she would speak out strongly against anyone who tried to give "any credit" to Castro.
She added that the comments could hurt Sanders with her constituents and invited Sanders to visit families in Florida so he can understand the pain caused by Castro's regime.
Other Democratic representatives from Florida criticized Sanders for his comments, including Rep. Donna Shalala, who served as HHS secretary under President Bill Clinton. Sanders has also not received any congressional endorsements from lawmakers in the Sunshine State.