December 5, 2021

Obama shakes hands with Communist Cuba’s Castro at Mandela memorial

Obama and Castro Shake Hands

Soweto (South Africa) (AFP) – President Barack Obama on Tuesday shook hands with Raul Castro, leader of America’s Cold War foe Cuba, in a rare gesture at the memorial service in South Africa for Nelson Mandela.

Obama offered the handshake before taking the stage to eulogize Mandela, but minutes later, made a clear swipe at states like Cuba, saying those who proclaim Mandela’s legacy must honor its meaning by easing curbs on freedom.

The handshake between Obama and the brother who took over the duties of longtime Cuban dictator Fidel Castro was seen by millions around the world on live television and was confirmed by a senior US official to AFP.

The Cuban government hailed it as a hopeful sign, writing on its website: “May this… be the beginning of the end of the US aggressions?”

But it remained unclear whether it would presage a meaningful thaw in relations across the shark-infested waters off Cuba.

It comes as Obama seeks to live up to his campaign promise made in 2007 to reach out directly to US enemies as president — and after he spoke by phone to Iranian President

The United States maintains a five-decades-old embargo against the communist island nation, which Havana says has cost the economy $1.1 trillion and have only limited ties owing to the iron-fisted rule of the Castros.

Obama is likely to face some domestic backlash from his gesture, as Cuba is a fiercely divisive issue in US politics.

Vehemently anti-Castro Cuban-Americans make up a sizable portion of voters and political donors in Florida, a battleground state where US presidential elections can be won or lost.

Obama’s clear jab at states like Cuba, which claim kinship with Mandela but do not follow the example of a man who forgave his enemies and built a pluralistic state, may have been intended to insulate him from some domestic criticism.

“There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people,” Obama said, stabbing his finger in the air in the rain-sodden stadium hosting the event.

As a presidential candidate, Obama was pilloried as naive and dangerous by rivals from both parties for suggesting that as president he would be willing to talk to foes without preconditions.

As he ran for reelection, Obama’s success in tracking down and killing Osama bin Laden and a fearsome drone war largely insulated him from allegations of weakness in foreign and security policy.

But the interim nuclear deal between US and world powers reached last month and his decision to call off 11th-hour military strikes on Syria over the use of chemical weapons have revived opposition attacks over his foreign policy spine.

It was unclear whether Tuesday’s gesture would significantly thaw relations. In 2000, then president Bill Clinton shook the hand of Fidel Castro at the UN General Assembly in New York.

There was no picture of the moment and the White House initially denied it had occurred.

Havana and Washington have not had diplomatic relations since 1961, two years after Fidel Castro came to power in the Cuban revolution.

Tensions have eased since Obama took office, with both countries reaching a series of agreements seen as confidence-building measures including cooperation on air and maritime rescue and migration issues.

In 2011 Obama eased restrictions on visas, remittances and travel.

The move was designed to expand religious and educational travel, allow any airport to offer charter flights to the country and restore cultural initiatives suspended by the previous Bush administration.

Talks are under way to resume a direct postal service between the two countries.


I understand your position about the handshake but Obama went over what was needed. He seemed happy to greet Raul Castro and even looked like he was bowing. To you is easier to accept this gesture than to those of us, Americans of Cuban descent, who can clearly remember the atrocities, the persecutions, the splitting of families; leaving all we knew behind to begin from scratch. Many of us were exposed to evil early in life, not something for children like watching live executions on TV. It is very difficult to realize fifty years later that we find ourselves in a similar situation; that as we get old the nightmare returns in our adopted country that was meant to keep us free and safe. It is an indignity to watch our president reach out to the tyranny that caused us so much harm, to realize that after all these years our fellow Americans have rejected our story and now are ready to embrace the evil we suffered as children. History is repeating and we feel powerless to stop it. Obama offered the handshake not because he had to, but because Raul Castro is a fellow traveler in his warped leftist world. In addition Greta, Nelson Mandela was no hero. He was a devout Marxist who praised often the Cuban revolution, the Castro brothers, and the sadistic murderer Che Guevara. As someone of Cuban descent, I have viewed the Mandela funeral as a celebration of evil by a cast of characters who represent the worst our world offers today.

Chely H. Miller

There is Cuban blood in the hands of Raul Castro….please research the conditions and atrocities happening as we speak in Cuba against the dissidents…hundreds have been arrested today, Human Rights Day!


It totally upsets me that the president of my country kowtows to terrorists and dictators who continually persecute innocent people.
Shaking Castro’s hand is an appropriate thing to do in a reserved manner, but quite sickening to see our president smiling and bowing to an enemy of freedom. Our presidents cozying up to enemies of our Constitution and way of life is repulsive.

Some day the truth of this president’s intentions will be realized. I pray it is not too late. We are a Judeo-Christian country. If anyone wants to change our Constitution and squelch our ideas and beliefs, they should pack their bags and go to another country.


Any “President of the United States” has to be aware that his public actions, and his giving the personal appearance of having any degree of friendship or support for any individual so widely known to be a Marxist-oriented tyrant as Castro, is going to raise–not only questions–but the ire of Americans and Cuban exiles. What’s with President Obama’s seeming propensity for bowing and groveling whenever he is anywhere near these guys? No more apologies are necessary. They all know, by now, how much he regrets the United States being perceived as a world power.