Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Obama and Raul Castro shake hands at Mandela funeral


The rare contact between the leaders of the rival nations came during a memorial service at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg that focused on Nelson Mandela’s legacy of reconciliation.

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Updated: Tuesday, December 10, 2013, 1:08 PM











President Obama shakes the hand of Cuban President Raul Castro at a memorial for Nelson Mandela.

KAI PFAFFENBACH/REUTERS

President Obama shakes the hand of Cuban President Raul Castro at a memorial for Nelson Mandela.

Even in death, Nelson Mandela remains a powerful force for reconciliation.
President Obama shook hands with Cuban President Raul Castro Tuesday at a memorial service for Mandela — a rare instance of contact between the leaders of the rival nations.
PHOTOS: NELSON MANDELA MEMORIAL SERVICE
Castro smiled as Obama shook his hand on the way to the podium to deliver a rousing speech in memory of the former South African president and liberation icon who died on Thursday aged 95.
The handshake is a rare example of contact between the leaders of the Cold War rivals.

REUTERS TV/REUTERS

The handshake is a rare example of contact between the leaders of the Cold War rivals.

"Nothing he achieved was inevitable," Obama said regarding Mandela. "In the arc of his life, we see a man who earned his place in history through struggle and shrewdness, persistence and faith. He tells us what's possible not just in the pages of dusty history books, but in our own lives as well.
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Obama also noted that dictators are often quick to embrace Mandela's message — comments that could be taken as a criticism of Cuba under the Castros.
"Around the world today people are still in prison for their political beliefs...that is happening today!" Obama said.
President Obama and Raul Castro exchange words as Obama makes his way to the podium at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Obama and Raul Castro exchange words as Obama makes his way to the podium at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.

RELATED: MOURNING MANDELA
"There are too many people who happily embrace Madiba's legacy of racial reconciliation but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality. There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba's struggle for equality but do not tolerate dissent from their own people," Obama said, using Mandela's clan name.
For his part Raul Castro hailed Mandela as "the ultimate symbol of dignity and unwavering dedication to the revolutionary struggle" during his speech.
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Cuba’s President Raul Castro  arrives for the memorial service for former South African president Nelson Mandela.

Matt Dunham/AP

Cuba’s President Raul Castro arrives for the memorial service for former South African president Nelson Mandela.

He also recalled Mandela's visit to Cuba in 1991, when the South African president said "The Cuban people have a special place in the hearts of the people of Africa,"  according to Castro.
Unsurprisingly, at least one of Obama's critics back in the U.S. did not share the harmonious spirit of the moment.
RELATED: VAST AND UNUSUAL MIX OF WORLD LEADERS EXPECTED AT NELSON MANDELA’S MEMORIAL
"If the President was going to shake his hand, he should have asked him about those basica freedoms Mandela was associated iwth that are denied in Cuba," Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told The Hill. "(Cuba) continues to have close ties to terrorist organizations."
President Obama delivered a rousing speech at FNB Stadium, thanking South Africans 'for sharing Nelson Mandela with us.'

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

President Obama delivered a rousing speech at FNB Stadium, thanking South Africans 'for sharing Nelson Mandela with us.'

The handshake between the historic rivals at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg came during a ceremony revolving around Mandela’s remarkable dignity in his long struggle that brought a peaceful end to apartheid.
RELATED: OBAMAS HEAD TO NELSON MANDELA MEMORIAL IN SOUTH AFRICA
The countries have been at odds since Raul’s brother, Fidel Castro, ousted the U.S.-backed dictator, Fulgencio Batista.
The U.S. and Cuba have recently taken small steps toward rapprochement, raising hopes the two nations could be on the verge of a breakthrough in relations. But skeptics caution that the two countries have shown signs of a thaw in the past, only to fall back into old recriminations.
The United States embargo against Cuba remains in place. It was first imposed in 1960.
Obama also shook hands with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who has clashed with Obama over spying by the National Security Agency.
With News Wire Services
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