President Obama shakes hands with Cuba's Raul Castro

By By Julie Pace and Roger Lohse
Published On: Dec 24 2013 07:29:17 PM EST
Updated On: Dec 11 2013 08:04:00 AM EST

President Barack Obama has shaken hands with Cuban President Raul Castro at a memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela.

JOHANNESBURG -

President Barack Obama has shaken hands with Cuban President Raul Castro at a memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela.

The handshake between the leaders of the two Cold War enemies came during a ceremony that's focused on Mandela's legacy of reconciliation. Obama was greeting a line of world leaders and heads of state attending the memorial in Johannesburg. Among those he greeted was Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who has clashed with Obama over alleged National Security Agency spying.

The U.S. and Cuba have recently taken small steps toward rapprochement, raising hopes the two nations could be on the verge of a breakthrough in relations. But skeptics caution that the two countries have shown signs of a thaw in the past, only to fall back into old recriminations.

"If the President was going to shake his hand, he should have asked him about those basic freedoms Mandela was associated with that are denied in Cuba," said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

Cuban-Americans outside Versailles Restaurant in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood differed on what the handshake meant.

"What do you expect from Obama? Obama has been giving Cuba everything for nothing," said Gonzalo Lopez.

"Because Cuba needs the freedom and the only form that to get the freedom for Cuba is the United States," countered Santiago Portal.

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