As Independent Senator Bernie Sanders ramps up his campaign for the presidency, his focus has been on issues like economic inequality, the corrupting influence of money in politics, and stopping global climate change. Yet questions have remained about his views on the realm of policy most relevant to the commander in chief’s job: foreign affairs.
A televised CSPAN interview Sanders gave in 1989, when he was mayor of Burlington, Vermont, offers a look into his thinking about the world. At one point, the interviewer asked Sanders about the distinction between socialism in Latin American countries and the authoritarian government of the Soviet Union. Sanders said
INTERVIEWER: At various times the governments of Nicaragua and the previous government of Grenada have said that they were not Communist. They were socialist, Marxist, how do you relate to that?
SANDERS: I agree with that. I agree with that! What they said, what the government of Grenada said, under Maurice Bishop is that they wanted to forge their own way. And they were overthrown by the United States government. In Nicaragua, you have a government which has…came to power and I believe has tried to do the right thing for its people in terms of health care, land reform, education. If you trace the history of the United States vis a vis Latin America and Central America, there has never been a time where a country made a revolution for the poor people where it was not overthrown by the CIA or the United States government, or the marines. Salvador Allende was democratically elected by the people of Chile. He made the mistake of believing that his job as president of that country was to represent the people of Chile. And he did his best. And he was overthrown by the CIA. So the interesting question is why does the United States government think, whether its Nicaragua or any other country in Latin or Central America that it has the right to overthrow those governments.
Needless to say, it is extremely rare to see a major U.S. politician speak this bluntly about human rights abuses that our government has perpetrated in other countries. Although the focus of Sanders’s political life has been on domestic issues, he here demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of American foreign policy and empathy for those who have been mistreated by it.