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Florida Democrats in Cuban districts hit Bernie Sanders for praise of Fidel Castro: 'Absolutely unacceptable'

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Will this be an electability problem for Sanders?

Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Democrat from Florida, speaks during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Dec. 13, 2019, in Washington, D.C. (Patrick Semansky/AP Photo/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Two Democratic congresswomen from Florida who represents districts with large Cuban American populations criticized Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for his flattering comments about the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla.), an immigrant from Ecuador, tweeted that Sanders' remarks about the good accomplished by Castro were "absolutely unacceptable."

"As the first South American immigrant member of Congress who proudly represents thousands of Cuban Americans, I find Senator Bernie Sanders' comments on Castro's Cuba absolutely unacceptable," Mucarsel-Powell wrote on Twitter. "The Castro regime murdered and jailed dissidents, and caused unspeakable harm to too many South Florida families. To this day, it remains an authoritarian regime that oppresses its people, subverts the free press, and stifles a free society."

Mucarsel-Powell wasn't the only Florida Democrat to take exception to Sanders' rhetoric. Rep. Donna Shalala suggested Sanders speak to some Floridians before speaking so favorably of 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," Shalala tweeted.

During a "60 Minutes" interview with contributor Anderson Cooper that aired Sunday night, Sanders' refuted the notion that everything about Castro's authoritarian reign was bad.

"We're very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba," Sanders said. "But it's unfair to say that everything is bad. When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing even though Fidel Castro did it?"

Sanders omitted some important context behind literacy efforts in Cuba under Castro, however.

"Contrary to what Senator Bernie Sanders said, the literacy campaign used by the Castro regime was part of their strategic plan to indoctrinate the Cuban people by using education at all levels in support of a Marxist ideology," said Dr. Andy Gomez, a retired University of Miami professor who led the school's Cuban Studies department.

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