U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, a Los Angeles Democrat who heads the Congressional Black Caucus, referred to Castro as “comandante en jefe” after he died in 2016 – and called his passing “a great loss to the people of Cuba,” Politico reported.
The phrase Bass used translates to “commander in chief.”
Democrats speaking out against Bass’s apparent admiration for the late dictator – who led the Cuban Revolution in the 1950s and was a thorn in the side of U.S. presidents for a half-century – include U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., and Miami state Rep. Javier Fernandez.
Both Shalala and Fernandez represent an area with a high number of exiles from communist and socialist regimes in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua – a constituency that has a history of opposing candidates who express even the slightest amount of sympathy for Castro, who ruled in Cuba as president until 2008 and as Communist Party leader until 2011 before dying five years later at age 90.
“I disagree with the Congresswoman’s comments on Cuba. I invite people to come to Miami where we can educate them on the tyrannical dictatorship that has decimated Cuba for 60 years,” Shalala, who served in former President Bill Clinton’s administration, told Politico.
“The comments are troubling,” Fernandez told the outlet. “It shows a lack of understanding about what the Castro regime was about. So I have to learn more about her position and perspective on Fidel Castro.
“Praise like the one that was given by Bass at the time of Castro’s death is inconsistent with my family’s experience with what the regime did — and continues to do — to people on the island, which is to suppress human rights, keep people under a totalitarian thumb and stifle economic growth.”
Bass’s congressional office told Politico the congresswoman’s remarks in 2016 were similar to those uttered by former President Barack Obama, who at the time was seeking better relations with Cuba as the country prepared to transition from the leadership of Castro and his brother, Raul Castro, now 89, who remains a Communist Party leader there after succeeding Fidel Castro as president from 2008-2018.
Biden’s campaign declined to comment to Politico about Bass’s remarks.
The news outlet noted that former Biden primary opponent Bernie Sanders was heavily criticized in Florida for making pro-Castro comments during a “60 Minutes” interview on CBS in February, after being asked about previous pro-Castro remarks attributed to him in 1985.