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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
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 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 Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
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 Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
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 Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
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.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs