By Beyza Binnur Donmez
ANKARA (AA) – U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, one of the two remaining Democratic presidential hopefuls, termed the United Arab Emirates (UAE) a “dictatorship” during Sunday’s televised debate against former vice president Joe Biden.
The Vermont senator’s remarks came after Biden accused him of supporting dictatorships by praising the socialist Sandinista movement in Nicaragua and the education system of Cuba's former leader Fidel Castro.
The discussion started after one of the moderators asked Sanders why Cuban Americans would support him after his praise for Castro’s policies.
In response, the veteran politician asserted his opposition to autocratic regimes and his view on the global shift towards authoritarianism.
"I think we condemn authoritarianism, whether it is in China, Russia, Cuba, or any place else, but to simply say that nothing ever done by any of those administrations had a positive impact on their people; well, I think that to be incorrect," he added.
Sanders stressed that he had taken a clear stance on the matter long before his political counterparts. "… before it was considered good policy, [or even a] good idea, I was condemning the dictatorship in Saudi Arabia, with a lot of other people in Washington with me. I was condemning the dictatorship in the UAE."
He vowed to be a standard-bearer for democratic values if elected president. "What I believe right now in this world is that we are faced with a global crisis and a movement toward authoritarianism. That's what Putin in Russia is leading. That's what [Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman] MBS in Saudi Arabia is leading.
“As president of the United States, unlike Donald Trump, I will put the flag down and say that in this country and in this world, we have got a move towards democracy and human rights. That is my view and has always been my view," Sanders said.
Turning to Biden, the moderator said former President Barack Obama had also hailed Castro's education and health care systems as “huge achievements”, and asked the Democratic front-runner how that was any different from what Sanders had said.
“Obama was trying to change Cuban policy so that the U.S. can impact on Cuba's policy, by getting them opened up,” the former vice president said.
To this, Sanders said, “President Obama was more generous in his praise of what Cuba did in health care and education than I was. I was talking about a program 60 years ago in the first year of the Castro revolution.”