Sanders Still Won't Call Maduro a Dictator: 'There Are Still Democratic Operations' in Venezuela

February 25, 2019

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) continued his streak of not calling Venezuelan autocratic leader Nicolas Maduro a dictator, saying Monday that there are still "democratic operations" in Venezuela.

Sanders, who announced last week he's running for president, participated in a CNN town hall in Washington, D.C., with host Wolf Blitzer. The CNN host asked him why he stopped short of calling Maduro a dictator in an interview with Univision's Jorge Ramos last week.

"Well, I think it's fair to say that the last election was undemocratic, but there are still democratic operations taking place in that country. The point is what I'm calling for right now is internationally supervised, free elections," Sanders said.

Shortly before the town hall, Univision announced on Twitter that Ramos and the team working with him were "being arbitrarily detained at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas. They were interviewing [Maduro] but he didn't like the questions. Their technical equipment was also confiscated."

Univision later reported that Ramos and the team were released.

Sanders, who caucuses with the Senate Democrats, went on to attack President Donald Trump for being "selective" when it comes to his concerns about democracy before adding that his "record is to be concerned about democracy all over the world."

"At the end of the day, it's going to be the people of Venezuela who determine the future of their country, not the United States," Sanders said.

Rep. Donna Shalala (D., Fla.), Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.), and other Democrats have come out against Sanders for refraining from calling for Maduro to step down or saying whether he thinks Maduro is a dictator.

Sanders "has demonstrated again that he does not understand this situation," Shalala told Politico, adding, "I absolutely disagree with his imprecision in not saying Maduro must go."

Cardin appeared on CNN's "Right Now" on Friday, where host Brianna Keilar asked him about Sanders's interview with Univision.

"I disagree with Senator Sanders in regards to the legitimacy of President Maduro. I don't believe he is a legitimate leader," Cardin said. "I do agree with Senator Sanders that we need free and fair elections in Venezuela in order to determine its future leader. That has to be done."