Obama Shakes Raul Castro's Hand, Ignites Rage in Some Cuban-Americans
Around the State
President Barack Obama's decision during Nelson Mandela's memorial service Tuesday to shake hands with Cuban President Raul Castro struck an immediate, sharp blow to some Cuban-Americans in Miami watching the service on television.
"What is our president doing making nice to the head of a Communist nation that keeps an innocent American in prison in Cuba?" Lionny Suarez asked during a telephone conversation with Sunshine State News.
"There is no humanity in the Castros," said Suarez, 62. "They are all about ideologies, they don't change. I wanted to see my president snub him."
"Do you see how naive Obama is?" asks Suarez's friend, Carlos Montes, 58. "He makes me afraid. He would be willing to talk to our enemies without asking about the wisdom of it."
Said Miami beautician Ana Lapida, "I'm sad for the family of Alan Gross to see their president do this."
The United States government has been calling for the release of American Alan Gross, imprisoned in Cuba for four years. Gross, a 64-year-old husband and father, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for facilitating uncensored Internet contact between a Cuban religious community and the rest of the world.
Obama had offered his hand to Castro before taking the stage to speak at the ceremony. Making his way to the podium, he also shook hands with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who earlier this year cancelled a state visit to Washington over concerns about alleged spying by the U.S.
The United States maintains a five-decades-old embargo against Cuba, which Havana claims has so far cost the economy $1.1 trillion.
Seen by millions as they watched the memorial being broadcast live around the world, the surprise handshake was saluted in Havana as a hopeful sign.
Government website Cubadebate.cu ran a photograph of the moment with the caption: "Obama greets Raul: may this image be the beginning of the end of the US aggressions against Cuba."
In 2011 Obama eased restrictions on visas, remittances and travel.
Talks are under way to resume a direct postal service between the two countries.
The Cuban Americans who gathered in Miami, in spite of their anger over the presidential handshake, acknowledged Obama's speech eulogizing Mandela was inspiring. Read the full text here.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423.