Mark Figley: The Bernie Sanders you should know

By Mark Figley - Guest Columnist

During his unsuccessful campaign for governor of Vermont in 1972 under the banner of the Liberty Union, Bernie Sanders believed that a unified group of anti-capitalist activists was necessary to defeat the corrupt establishment. Indeed, radical change was required to pull society back from the clutches of a wealthy ruling class and corporate elites.

Finally, after two unsuccessful runs for governor and two more for U.S. Senate, Bernie won the mayorship of Burlington, Vermont, by 10 votes in 1981. Despite running as an independent, Sanders was a diehard socialist who came to believe that food lines were a good thing. Today, nothing’s changed except for his incorporation of the term “democratic socialist,” and the interesting fact that he owns three homes.

Though still officially an independent, Sanders has consistently caucused with Democrats since being elected to the House of Representatives in 1990. And during his time in D.C., he’s been obsessed with not just the moral implications of big money on society, but the belief that capitalism has no attributes worth celebrating. He’s also been less than convincing in disavowing the violent nature of socialism and communism around the world; which should frighten anybody who believes in America’s electoral process.

Instead, Sanders has made notable declarations proclaiming the goodness of socialism, and by extension, communism in “Cuber.” Recently, he extolled the virtues of Fidel Castro, saying, “He educated their kids, gave them health care, totally transformed the society.” Then, in a “60 Minutes” interview, Sanders doubled down, adding, “It’s unfair to simply say everything is bad (Cuba). Castro had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing even though he did it?” According to author and journalist Fred Lucas, this is a question better asked to those who have escaped from Cuba.

Like the Sebastian Arcos family. On Dec. 31, 1981, Arcos was imprisoned by Castro for one year after he and his family were caught by Cuban authorities trying to escape to the United States. His uncle, who had previously supported the Castro regime and fought for the revolution, spent seven years in jail. Arcos’ father, also a one-time Castro supporter, was sent to prison for six years.

Today, Arcos, 58, is the associate director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University. He eventually made it to the United States and knows the price one pays in Cuba for failing to unconditionally support Castro’s broken promises of freedom and democracy. Still, Arcos is surprised that “talking heads” in the United States continue to concede Cuba’s long history of gross human rights abuses, while glowingly speaking about its health care and literacy.

Does the Cuban health-care system Sanders raves about somehow negate the executions of untold thousands by the Fidel/Raul Castro regimes? What of the tens of thousands of political prisoners who are currently jailed in Cuba? Furthermore, why did such a top-notch system of care force three million Cubans into exile?

And what about the true state of medical care in Cuba? Arcos and Janisset Rivero, 50, another Cuban human rights activist, know the real story of the nation’s “two-tiered” health system: one for tourists, elites and the military; the other for the general population which must bring their own bedding, food and water to the hospital. Rivero, who escaped Cuba at age 14, believes those inside the U.S. who support Cuban communism are simply ignorant. That would seem to include a particular presidential contender.

As for Castro’s “massive literacy program,” it was more an effort at leftist indoctrination. Someone forgot to inform Bernie that in 1951, Cuba had a 75-80% student literacy rate; reportedly the highest in Latin America. Meanwhile, per Rivero, critical thinking among Cubans is non-existent.

Sanders’ contention that the middle class is better served by socialism is sadly lost on Cuba as well. The military dictatorship controls 80% of the economy, private property is strictly regulated and its seizure is common. In addition, free market policies are rare, wages are controlled, the government directs production and taxes are high (up to 50%).

Contrary to the claims of Bernie Sanders, America’s pre-dominant “talking head” when it comes to socialism and communism, these two systems have met with failure on every occasion they have been tried. Instead of freedom and prosperity, their results are measured in terms of torture, repression, corruption, and despair.

It’s all enough to make one wonder whether Bernie might just purchase a fourth home in “Cuber.” Besides, what could there possibly be to worry about?

By Mark Figley

Guest Columnist

Mark Figley is a political activist and guest columnist from Elida. His column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News. Reach him a

Mark Figley is a political activist and guest columnist from Elida. His column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News. Reach him a

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