Biden, Sanders battle over Cuba, Obama
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Vice President Joe Biden traded barbs Tuesday night over Sanders’s positive remarks about communist Cuba and whether former President Obama ever made similar comments.
“What I said is what Barack Obama said, in terms of Cuba, that Cuba made progress on education,” Sanders said at South Carolina’s Democratic debate, doubling down on comments from a recent “60 Minutes” interview that drew criticism from fellow White House hopefuls.
Biden quickly interjected, saying Obama never spoke highly of Cuba’s regime. The former vice president cited a town hall-style meeting Obama held in Argentina in 2016.
“He did not in any way suggest that there was anything positive about the Cuban government — acknowledge that they did increase life expectancy, but he went on to condemn the dictatorship,” said Biden.
During the town hall meeting, Obama relayed his conversation with Raúl Castro, Cuba’s president at the time: “I said, look, you’ve made great progress in educating young people. Every child in Cuba gets a basic education; that’s a huge improvement from where it was.”
“Medical care — the life expectancy of Cubans is equivalent to the United States, despite it being a very poor country, because they have access to health care. That’s a huge achievement. They should be congratulated. But you drive around Havana and you say this economy is not working,” Obama added.
Biden on Tuesday accused Sanders of not condemning the authoritarianism of Cuba’s leaders and their regional ally, Nicaragua.
“Categorically untrue,” Sanders responded. “Cuba, Nicaragua, authoritarianism of any stripe is bad. That is different than saying that governments occasionally do things that are good.”