Gov. DeSantis blasts Bernie Sanders over Cuba comments

Gov. Ron DeSantis criticized presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders over comments he made about Cuba.
Gov. Ron DeSantis criticized presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders over comments he made about Cuba. (WJXT/AP)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday joined a chorus of Republicans criticizing Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders for comments the Vermont senator made about Cuba during an appearance Sunday on the CBS news show “60 Minutes.”

During the appearance, Sanders said he is opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but that it is “unfair to simply say everything is bad” and pointed to a “massive literacy program” after Fidel Castro came to power.

The comments drew heavy criticism from Republicans, as Sanders leads the Democratic presidential field after Saturday’s Nevada caucuses.

During an appearance Monday morning at Florida A&M University, DeSantis blasted Sanders.

“Any attempts to whitewash the brutality of the Castro dictatorship is totally unacceptable,” said DeSantis, a close political ally of President Donald Trump. “It flies directly in the face of the values of the people throughout this state. And this is a senator who has spoken positively throughout his whole life about the dictatorship there.”

Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott have also condemned Sanders’ comments.

With Florida’s large Cuban-American population, Sanders’ comments about Cuba could play an important role in the state’s March 17 Democratic primary and, if he is the ultimate Democratic nominee, in the November general election.

“He puts a number of swing seat congressional and state legislative members in Miami-Dade in a bind. They now have to come out and oppose the potential nominee for president and that’s never a good place to be,” said Steve Schale, a Democratic strategist. “The biggest thing for Democrats is the later generation Cubans are now swing voters. They voted for (former President Barack Obama). They voted for (Hillary) Clinton. We need them in 2020 if we’re going to win the state."

Schale noted the comments aren’t likely to affect Sanders much in the primary next month, but if he makes it to the general election, that’s where it could really hurt.