Barack Obama and Raul Castro: More Than a Handshake?
By Arturo Lopez-Levy
Nelson Mandela, even after his death, promoted peace and reconciliation among nations and civility between leaders. His funeral has brought about the refreshing image of Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama, of Cuba and the U.S., greeting each other.
The struggle against apartheid was a cause that gathered many around the world. The African-American university student Barack Obama and the thousands of Cuban soldiers who went to Angola were among them. Mandela inspired them and thanked them all for their contribution. Barack Obama and Raul Castro were on the same side of the South African conflict, Mandela’s side. They had common adversaries like Senator Jesse Helms, author of the insignia law of the embargo against Cuba, and the loudest voice in the racist and reactionary resistance against American repudiation of apartheid.
A gesture says more than a thousand words. Obama behaved in accord with the dignity and protocol that comes with leading a democratic superpower. The handshake would not have been extraordinary without past deviations by the U.S. from all diplomatic norms in its policy towards Cuba. In Mexico in 2002, then-president George W. Bush put President Vicente Fox on the ropes by demanding that Mexico arrange the Monterrey summit in a way that he did not have to greet Fidel Castro. Fox asked Fidel Castro to speak, eat and leave before Bush arrived. When Fidel revealed their phone conversation, Fox’s decision to genuflect toward the North caused a crisis in the relations between Havana and Mexico City.
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Change With Cuba in President Obama’s Hands
By John McAuliff
There has never been a more propitious moment in the spirit of Nelson Mandela for President Obama to make an historic change in U.S.-Cuba relations. As I wrote in a previous post, Judy and Alan Gross have given the White House the moral authorization, if not obligation, to negotiate with Cuba to achieve Alan’s release. Two-thirds of the Senate have given it the political space by signing a letter initiated by Senator Leahy.
Cuba has just reaffirmed in friendly language its readiness and the parameters for agreement (exact text here). The content is not new but in the current context is tantalizingly suggestive of the choice facing President Obama.
Cuban President Raul Castro has called for “civilized relations” with the United States, saying the two countries should respect their differences.
Article continues here: Change With Cuba in President Obama’s Hands