Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Nation mourns Colin Powell The Memo: Powell ended up on losing side of GOP fight Powell death leads to bipartisan outpouring of grief MORE's campaign is criticizing Bernie SandersBernie SandersManchin meets with Sanders, Jayapal amid spending stalemate America can end poverty among its elderly citizens Senate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair MORE for not disavowing his decades-old praise of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro's social services just three days ahead of the Florida presidential primary.
The campaign sent out a statement from three noted Hispanic Miami residents that casts Sanders's comments as hurtful to the Cuban exile community.
"When the spotlight was on him in South Florida, Senator Sanders refused to say he was wrong to effusively praise Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba. He should wise up and do so immediately," the statement said.
"Cubans in Florida are proud of their heritage — but they want a president who will acknowledge and condemn the darkest elements of Cuba’s past, not hold them up as an example. ... For someone seeking the presidency to defend his regime and refuse to disavow it is stunning."
Former U.S. Ambassador Luis Lauredo, former Labor Department official Millie Herrera and former Defense Department official Frank Mora signed on to the Clinton campaign statement.
The statement goes on to accuse Castro of "some of the greatest human rights abuses Hispanics in the Western Hemisphere have faced."
Cuban-Americans make up a substantial part of the South Florida community but only 3 percent of the 2008 Democratic primary electorate. Florida is a battleground in the Democratic primary, with 214 pledged delegates up for grabs.
Clinton leads Sanders by a large margin in recent polls, but he's spent the past days barnstorming the state.
Sanders was confronted about his 1985 comments on Castro during Wednesday's Univision debate.
"You may recall way back in, when was it, 1961, they invaded Cuba, and everybody was totally convinced that Castro was the worst guy in the world. All the Cuban people were going to rise up in rebellion against Fidel Castro. They forgot that he educated their kids, gave them healthcare, totally transformed their society," Sanders said at the time.
In response to the video, Sanders said that his point was that the United States should not have tried to invade Cuba. While he panned the Castro regime as "authoritarian" and "undemocratic," he didn't directly address whether he has had a change of heart on his characterization of Castro's regime.