Obama hand shake with Raul Castro makes waves

McClatchy Washington BureauDecember 10, 2013 

South Africa Mandela Memorial Obama Castro

In this image from TV, US President Barack Obama shakes hands with Cuban President Raul Castro at the FNB Stadium in Soweto, South Africa

SABC POOL — ASSOCIATED PRESS

President Barack Obama shook the hand of Cuban President Raul Castro at Nelson Mandela's memorial service -- the first time the leaders of the two countries long at odds have had any contact.

The handshake between the two came as Obama made his way to the podium, moving across the VIP seating section of the soccer stadium. Castro appeared to speak to Obama, who acknowledged him, leaving Castro beaming, even as Obama moved over to warmly greet Brazil's president, Dilma Rousseff with a kiss on the cheek.

Cuban Americans in Miami reacted with anger: "Really @BarackObama?" tweeted Carlos Curbelo, a member of the Miami-Dade school board and congressional candidate. "Find strong hand sanitizer. Surely some of the innocent blood on @RaulCastroR's hand rubbed off."

Obama and Rousseff have had some frosty relations as well. The Brazilian president scrapped a state dinner at the White House in October to register her country's disapproval of the NSA's spying on foreign leaders. 

Back in 2000, then-Cuban President Fidel Castro shook then President Bill Clinton's hands during a UN summit. It was believed to be the first time since Castro, then 74, took power in 1959 that the communist leader had shaken the hand of an American president.

Correction: This post originally misspelled the name of Dilma Rousseff.

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