As others have pointed out, the facts are simply not with Bernie Sanders when he praises Communist Cuba’s record, as he did again recently on 60 Minutes. Cuba was a relatively wealthy country before Fidel Castro took over. It already had high literacy rates and low infant mortality. Indeed, the rest of Latin America has made up a lot of ground on such measures in the intervening decades, putting the lie to claims that the despotic regime at least got some things right.
Castro’s Cuban experiment did have many admirers at one time. Celebrated Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa was one of them, as were many intellectuals of his generation. But as the Nobel Laureate in Literature explained in a talk he gave at an MEI event back in 2013, his enthusiasm began to wane somewhat when he learned of the concentration camps to which were sent a mix of dissidents, common criminals, and homosexuals. A trip to the Soviet Union in 1966 disillusioned him further with Marxism, as did reading authors like Karl Popper, Raymond Aron, and George Orwell.
It’s understandable for Bernie Sanders the teenager to have looked at Castro through rose-coloured glasses back in 1959. But to still have delusions, sixty-one years later, about the supposed benefits the dictator brought to Cubans—those who did not escape the island prison, that is, often by makeshift raft through shark-infested waters—is much more problematic.