Cuban leader Fidel Castro spoke in praise Thursday of his brother Raul’s brief encounter and handshake in South Africa with US President Barack Obama.
“I congratulate comrade Raul for his brilliant performance, and especially for his firmness and dignity when with a friendly but firm gesture he greeted the head of government of the United States and said to him in English: ‘Mr President, I am Castro.’”
Obama stopped and shook hands with the Cuban president on his way to the podium December 10 to speak at a memorial in Soweto for the late Nelson Mandela.
Neither side made much of the exchange but Fidel’s remarks, in an article published in the official Granma newspaper, made clear that he approved of his brother’s handling of the moment.
The handshake was the first between leaders of the two Cold War adversaries since 2000, when then US president Bill Clinton shook hands with Fidel at the UN General Assembly in New York.
It was only the second time that American and Cuban presidents have shaken hands since the Cuban revolution in 1959.
Raul replaced the ailing Fidel as Cuba’s president in 2006, but as the father of the Cuban revolution the elder Castro remains hugely influential.