(CNSNews.com) -- House Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), who served as Health and Human Services Secretary under President Bill Clinton, sharply criticized Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for praising some of the policies of Cuba's former Communist dictator Fidel Castro.
"I'm hoping that in the future, Senator Sanders will take time to speak to some of my constituents before he decides to sing the praises of a murderous tyrant like Fidel Castro," said Shalala in a Feb. 23 tweet.
Sanders, a socialist, has a long history of commending socialist/communist authoritarian regimes, including Cuba and Nicaragua. For his 1988 honeymoon, Sanders and his wife and some people from his mayoral staff in Burlington, Vermont went to the Soviet Union.
During one event, Sanders and company sat at a table overseen by a portrait of Communist dictator Vladimir Lenin -- imagine sitting under a portrait of Adolf Hitler.
On Monday, Feb. 24, at a televised town hall, Sanders said, "When Fidel Castro first came into power ... you know what he did? He initiated a major literacy program. It was a lot of folks in Cuba at that point who were illiterate and he formed the Literacy Brigade ... and they went out and they helped people learn to read and write You know what? I think teaching people to read and write is a good thing."
"I have been extremely consistent and critical of all authoritarian regimes all over the world, including Cuba, including Nicaragua, including Saudi Arabia, including China, including Russia," said Sanders. I happen to believe in democracy, not authoritarianism. ... China is an authoritarian country ... but can anyone deny, I mean the facts are clear, that they have taken more people out of extreme poverty than any country in history. ... That's the truth. So that is the fact. End of discussion."
According to the Black Book of Communism (Harvard University Press), Communist China has killed more than 65 million of its own people for ideological reasons. Today, labor camps (laogai) operate in China and an estimated two million Muslims are held in "reeducation" concentration camps.
An estimated 35 million people were killed in the USSR under Lenin and Stalin. In Communist Cuba, a reported 73 million people were killed for ideological reasons.
Many Cubans fled to Florida since the Communist takeover on the island in 1959. Among Latinos, there are about 1.2 million Cubans in Florida, roughly half of whom fled from the Communist dictatorship in Cuba. Cubans comprise about 32% of the Latino vote in Florida.