Florida Democrats are rising in opposition to the news Joe Biden is vetting a running mate who once lamented the death of “Comandante en jefe” Fidel Castro.
An early ally of Biden’s presidential campaign, California Rep. Karen Bass’ name surfaced this week as a possible vice-presidential pick who could help balance his ticket because of her deep progressive roots and her activism against police brutality, an emerging issue in the presidential race.
But Bass‘ comments about the longtime Cuban leader following his death in 2016 — when she respectfully called him “comandante en jefe” (in Spanish, commander in chief) — is politically poisonous in Florida and even more toxic in Miami, home to many exiles from socialist Latin American regimes that include Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
The Florida Democratic Party has spent two years fighting a renewed GOP effort to brand them as socialists, and the state and national parties are spending big this year in Miami to defend two congressional seats and win two crucial state Senate contests in districts with sizable Cuban-American populations. All four lawmakers condemned Bass’ Castro remarks.
“The comments are troubling. 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,” said Miami state Rep. Javier Fernandez, whose bid for an open state Senate seat could bring Democrats closer than ever to flipping control of the chamber.
“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,” Fernandez told POLITICO.
Bass’ congressional office pointed out that her remarks were similar to those made by President Obama at a time when the U.S. sought better relations with Cuba.