LATINO VOICES

Fidel Castro Weighs In On Historic Handshake

12/19/2013 10:37 am ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

Former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro finally weighed in on the death of his ally Nelson Mandela, in a “Reflection” that addresses the famous handshake between the Cuban and American heads of state at Mandela’s memorial service.

Retired from public life since he fell ill in 2006, pauses in Castro’s periodic columns published in the island’s state media often raise eyebrows among those wondering about the state of his health.

Castro broke his silence Wednesday night with a column that praised Mandela and excoriated the European colonial powers for creating Apartheid and the United States for supporting it during the Cold War.

“Mandela was a man of integrity, a profound revolutionary and a radical socialist,” Castro wrote. “I never stopped admiring his honor, his modesty and his enormous merit.”

Castro praised his brother, Cuban head of state Raúl Castro, for the much-discussed handshake with U.S. President Barack Obama at Mandela’s memorial service.

I congratulate my comrade Raúl for his brilliant performance and, especially, for his firmness and dignity when with a friendly but firm gesture he greeted the head of the government of the United States and told him in English: “Mister president, I am Castro.”

The symbolism of the handshake between the two heads of state caught the attention of the media, fueling speculation that U.S.-Cuba relations might be headed for a thaw after five decades of a U.S. trade embargo and severed diplomatic ties.

Castro’s article finished off with a dig aimed at the United States, whose government for many years considered Mandela a terrorist and, unlike Cuba, did little to oppose Apartheid.

“Imperialism will always hold many cards to break the will of our island, even it is has to depopulate it, depriving it of young men and women, offering them crumbs of the goods and natural resources that they plunder from the world,” Castro wrote. “Let the spokespeople of the empire talk now about how and why Apartheid came about.”

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