CNN stopped just short of declaring world peace after President Obama briefly shook hands with Raul Castro, the communist dictator of Cuba and Fidel Castro’s brother, during Nelson Mandela’s funeral.
“Castro! He’s shaking hands with Raul Castro,” CNN’s Christiane Amanpour exclaimed this morning as Obama greeted world dignitaries before his speech honoring Mandela’s memory. The president clasped Castro’s hands and offered a few words to the Caribbean leader before moving on to greet Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff.
But Amanpour immediately waxed poetic. “[Mandela] is a man — and it is so true — who brought people together in life. And he continues to bring people together in death,” she gushed.
It was the first time in over 50 years that the leaders of the United States and Cuba greeted one another face-to-face; the two nations have not had any diplomatic ties since 1961. President Obama has previously signaled a willingness to relax restrictions against Cuba, but most commentators avoided calling this morning’s handshake a diplomatic breakthrough.
“This was a moment of reconciliation, a moment of tribute to a great man,” said CNN’s John King. “It was not a time to make a political statement, so you shake hands out of respect for the moment and move on.”‘
“Raul Castro was right there,” he later added. “I would say the President of the United States really didn’t have much of a choice. Had he lingered a long time he might have started a bigger rile than he’s going to have. But make no doubt about it — you understand politics — somebody is going to decide that was a horrible thing. I think the president was showing respect for the moment.”
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