US President Barack Obama shakes hands with Cuban President Raul Castro at the FNB Stadium in Soweto, South Africa, in the rain for a memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela, Tuesday Dec. 10, 2013. (AP Photo)
WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House says it was just a brief handshake and an exchange of greetings, and that it wasn't planned in advance. But since it involved the president of the United States and the leader of Cuba, there are some who are angered by it.
The encounter between President Barack Obama and Cuba's Raul Castro lasted just seconds. It came as Obama was about to address today's memorial service in South Africa for Nelson Mandela. It's the first such meeting between U.S. and Cuban leaders since Bill Clinton and Fidel Castro shook hands at the U.N. in 2000.
In Washington, Cuban-American Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida called today's encounter a "propaganda coup" for Raul Castro, a man she calls a "ruthless dictator" and a "tyrant."
Both the U.S. and Cuba have taken small steps in recent months to improve their relationship. And today's handshake has prompted talk of a further warming of ties.
A Cuba analyst at a Washington think-tank, Geoff Thale, says, "It's a modestly hopeful sign." But he says, "Relations between Cuba and the United States are not changing tomorrow because they shook hands."
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