McCain Blasts Obama-Castro Handshake


WASHINGTON (UPI) — In what the White House called an unplanned moment, President Barack Obama shook hands with Cuban dictator Raul Castro during a Nelson Mandela memorial.

The act, which a White House spokesman said was meant as common courtesy and not a reflection of policy positions, drew a harsh rebuke from a pair of Republican Senators, with John McCain likening it to when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain shook hands with Adolf Hitler.

“It just gives Raul some propaganda to continue to prop up his dictatorial regime,” McCain (R-Ariz.) said of the act.

U.S.-Cuban relations have been in the news recently thanks to the case of Alan Gross, a U.S. Agency for International Development worker who has been jailed in Cuba for four years after the government discovered he helped set up Internet access for a small community of orthodox Jews.

Gross recently released an open letter to Obama seeking his intervention in the case — and the administration has been criticized for not doing enough to secure Gross’ release, The Hill said Tuesday.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who is of Cuban descent, said Obama missed an opportunity to make a point to Castro about human rights while honoring Mandela’s legacy.

“If the president was going to shake [Castro's] hand, he should have asked him about those basic freedoms Mandela was associated with that are denied in Cuba,” Rubio said.

It was the first time since 2000 a U.S. President shook a Cuban leader’s hand — when Bill Clinton and Fidel Castro shook during a United Nations meeting. Prior to that, the elder Castro had not embraced an American leader since greeting Richard Nixon when he was Vice President in 1958.

UPI - United Press International, Inc.

Since 1907, United Press International (UPI) has been a leading provider of critical information to media outlets, businesses, governments and researchers worldwide.

Join the Discussion

Comment Policy: We encourage an open discussion with a wide range of viewpoints, even extreme ones, but we will not tolerate racism, profanity or slanderous comments toward the author(s) or comment participants. Make your case passionately, but civilly. Please don't stoop to name calling. We use filters for spam protection. If your comment does not appear, it is likely because it violates the above policy or contains links or language typical of spam. We reserve the right to remove comments at our discretion.