WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says it was just a brief handshake and an exchange of greetings, and that it wasn't planned in advance. But since it involved the president of the United States and the leader of Cuba, there are some who are angered by it.
The encounter between President Barack Obama and Cuba's Raul Castro lasted just seconds. It came as Obama was about to address today's memorial service in South Africa for Nelson Mandela. It's the first such meeting between U.S. and Cuban leaders since Bill Clinton and Fidel Castro shook hands at the U.N. in 2000.
In Washington, Cuban-American Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (ih-lay-AH'-nah rahs LAY'-tih-nehn) of Florida called today's encounter a "propaganda coup" for Raul Castro, a man she calls a "ruthless dictator" and a "tyrant."
Both the U.S. and Cuba have taken small steps in recent months to improve their relationship. And today's handshake has prompted talk of a further warming of ties.
A Cuba analyst at a Washington think-tank, Geoff Thale, says, "It's a modestly hopeful sign." But he says, "Relations between Cuba and the United States are not changing tomorrow because they shook hands."
202-v-36-(Mark Smith, AP White House correspondent)--The White House is downplaying President Obama's handshake today with Cuba's leader. AP White House Correspondent Mark Smith reports. (10 Dec 2013)
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148-c-20-(Mark Smith, AP White House correspondent)-"with his enemies"-AP White House Correspondent Mark Smith reports President Obama has been mingling with other world leaders during the memorial service for Nelson Mandela. (10 Dec 2013)
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GRAPHICSBANK: Barrack Obama, US President, shakes hands with Raul Castro, as Cuba President, during memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela, graphic element on gray (10 Dec 2013)
APPHOTO LON853: In this image from TV, U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Cuban President Raul Castro at the FNB Stadium in Soweto, South Africa, in the rain for a memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela, Tuesday Dec. 10, 2013. The handshake between the leaders of the two Cold War enemies came during a ceremony that's focused on Mandela's legacy of reconciliation. Hundreds of foreign dignitaries and world heads of states gather Tuesday with thousands of South African people to celebrate the life, and mark the death, of Nelson Mandela who has become a global symbol of reconciliation. (AP Photo/SABC Pool) (10 Dec 2013)
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