Washington : A surprise handshake between US President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro at Nelson Mandela’s memorial ceremony in Johannesburg has stirred a major controversy at home and speculation about its deeper meaning.
Obama shook Castro’s hand on Tuesday as he walked down the line greeting other leaders, gathered there to pay their respects to South Africa’s first black president. Later a White House official told reporters that the moment was not “a pre-planned encounter”, and the two exchanged nothing more substantive than a greeting. “Above all else, today is about honouring Nelson Mandela, and that was the president’s singular focus at the memorial service. We appreciate that people from all over the world are participating in this ceremony,” Obama aide Ben Rhodes said.
The US president also greeted Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who has filed a formal protest with the US and rebuked the National Security Agency for its eavesdropping on world leaders.