If you want a look at the kind of government Bernie Sanders envisions, steer clear of Venezuela, the Vermont senator said on Thursday,
"In terms of democratic socialism, to equate what goes on in Venezuela with what I believe is extremely unfair," Sanders said in response to co-moderator Jorge Ramos. "I agree with (what) goes on in Canada and Scandinavia, guaranteeing health care to all people as a human right. I believe that the United States should not be the only major country on earth not to provide paid family and medical leave."
In his answer, Sanders drew on the nut of a speech he gave in Washington earlier this year explaining his take on the ideology. It is centered on a milder form of socialism that does not mandate the nationalization of major industries, but instead broadens and beefs up the social safety net and offers workers more of a say in how major corporations are run.
"You got three people in America owning more wealth than the bottom half of this country. You got a handful of billionaires controlling what goes on in Wall Street, the insurance companies and in the media. Maybe, just maybe, what we should be doing is creating an economy that works for all of us, not 1%," Sanders said in Houston. "That's my understanding of democratic socialism.:
Asked by Ramos if he would, after demurring in the past, call Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro a "dictator," Sanders again passed up the chance.
But he was hardly kind in his description.
"Well, first of all, let me be clear. Anybody that does what Maduro does is a vicious tyrant," Sanders said, before reiterating his position on Venezuela, saying: "What we need now is international and regional cooperation for free elections in Venezuela so that the people of that country can make, can create their own future."
Former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro was less circumspect.
“I’ll call Maduro a dictator," he said as Sanders finished, "because he is a dictator.”