News / Africa

Obama-Castro Handshake Draws Attention at Mandela Tribute

U.S. President Barack Obama greets Cuban President Raul Castro at a memorial service for late South African President Nelson Mandela, Johannesburg, Dec. 10, 2013.
U.S. President Barack Obama greets Cuban President Raul Castro at a memorial service for late South African President Nelson Mandela, Johannesburg, Dec. 10, 2013.
VOA News
Tuesday's memorial service for Nelson Mandela generated some informal diplomacy and political controversy, alongside the praise for the late South African president.
 
In a moment caught by television cameras, U.S. President Barack Obama shook hands with Cuban President Raul Castro as he walked to the podium. 
 
The handshake was notable because the United States and Cuba have not had diplomatic relations since 1961, at the height of the Cold War, and the U.S. maintains a trade embargo on Cuba.  Relations have begun to thaw in recent years.
 
U.S. officials say the handshake was not pre-planned.  But they say the two leaders did not have a substantive discussion, they only exchanged greetings.  White House aides say the United States still has "grave concerns" about Cuba's human rights situation.
 
Obama also exchanged greetings with Afghan leader Hamid Karzai, but U.S. officials say Obama did not see the memorial service as a "venue to do business."
 
The two leaders have been debating an agreement of a continued U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw in 2014.
 
The United States says Karzai must sign the pact by the end of this year or there will be no choice but to withdraw all American troops after 2014.
 
Obama is popular in South Africa, and thousands of people in the stadium cheered when his image appeared on the giant screen overlooking the field. 
 
In contrast, South African President Jacob Zuma was booed each time his image was shown on the screen.  Many South Africans have been angered by recent accusations that Zuma spent 200 million rand ($25 million) in taxpayer money to renovate his private home.
 
In all, more than 70 heads of state and government attended the ceremony, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and India's President Pranab Mukherjee.

Correction: An earlier version of this story indicated that South African President Jacob Zuma is accused of using $200 million in taxpayer money on home rennovations. He is accused of using 200 million rand, or $25 million dollars, to rennovate his home.
 
Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

You May Like

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: John McAuliff from: Dobbs Ferry, NY 10533
December 10, 2013 10:47 PM
Presumably President Obama also shook hands with the Vice President of China where human rights are also a problem.

If the handshake does mark the opening of a new relationship between the US and Cuba, it will be a fitting posthumous tribute to Mandela's record of reconciliation.

Cuba is popular in South Africa because of its crucial military support. in the struggle against apartheid and its current medical assistance.

John McAuliff
Fund for Reconciliation and Development

by: Fozi from: UK
December 10, 2013 9:07 PM
Both of them are phonies. One a Tyrannical Socialist Dictator, and the other a communist buffoon.

by: viper4u2 from: USA
December 10, 2013 8:09 PM
Grave concerns about Cubas human rights situation ??. we are creating human suffering in Iran Libya .Iraq Afghanistan, Egypt & Lebanon , with trade embargoes & you worry about situations in Cuba you have got to be kidding me .Trade embargoes are an act of war against these people . Food should never be used as a weapon against anybody,don't forget how much suffering going on because of our government .

by: Sunny Enwerem from: Nigeria
December 10, 2013 6:28 PM
Obama is a good man but do this world need a good man?
In Response

by: king from: harare
December 11, 2013 7:51 AM
a foreigner is always a good person coz african minds are colonised yu wl continue beggind from them praise your african leaders who are better than Obama who killed thousands if not millions in libya

by: Elijah McWary from: Aba, Abia State, Nigeria.
December 10, 2013 3:12 PM
The world would be a better place if they can be more Mandelas.

by: Baberesi Denis from: Uganda
December 10, 2013 3:08 PM
obama is a good student he exactly did what mandela wanted!

by: Godswill Ebuka from: Nigeria
December 10, 2013 1:08 PM
The handshake shouldnt generate much noise. To err is human to forgive is divine

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs