Fidel Castro hails brother for Obama handshake
HAVANA (REUTERS) - Mr Fidel Castro praised his brother, Cuban President Raul Castro, on Thursday for shaking hands with United States President Barack Obama at a memorial for Nelson Mandela, saying he demonstrated courtesy and dignity with the gesture.
The elder Castro, in his first comment on the death of Mandela, touched on the handshake that made headlines around the world, at the end of a long column published in the Cuban media that praised Mandela and reviewed Cuba's role in ending apartheid.
"I congratulate Comrade Raul for his brilliant performance (at the memorial), and especially for his firmness and dignity when with a friendly but firm greeting to the head of government of the United States he said in English, 'Mr. President, I am Castro'." The White House played down the handshake, saying it was unplanned and went no further than pleasantries.
Still, the meeting had resonance because US relations with Cuba have undergone a surprise warming in recent months with several instances of cooperation instead of the usual hostile rhetoric.