A sophisticate at the New Republic deems any controversy over the handshake to be just "silly."
Really? A bipartisan group of Cuban-American lawmakers don't see it that way. Republican Ted Cruz walked out of the memorial when Castro spoke. A New Jersey congressman, Democrat Albio Sires, denounced the handshake, noting that Mandela “stood for everything that the Castro regime has taken from the Cuban people over that past 50 years; freedom, equality, and human rights.”
Indeed, as former assistant secretary of state Otto Reich points out, Raul Castro's hands in fact have American blood on them.
And as Cuba's dictator, Human Rights Watch has reported that Raul Castro is no better than his brother Fidel. In Cuba, one can still be locked up for mere "dangerousness" -- that is, on the government's generalized suspicion that someone is likely to break Cuban law in the future. This serves as a pretext for imprisoning those who exercise basic human rights. From Human Rights Watch:
The Raul Castro government . . . uses a range of other draconian laws to silence free speech, quash labor rights, and criminalize all forms of dissent. Human rights defenders, journalists, and other civil society members tried under these laws are subjected to systematic due process violations, including abusive interrogations, the denial of legal counsel, and sham trials.
. . .
Political prisoners are subjected to widespread abuses, including forced ideological re-education, extended solitary confinement, and the denial of medical treatment for serious illnesses.
In addition to imprisoning dissenters, Raúl Castro's government also enforces political conformity using beatings, short-term detention, public acts of repudiation, and the denial of work, among other tactics. Taken together, these everyday forms of repression create a climate of fear that has a profound chilling effect on the exercise of fundamental freedoms in Cuban society.
This is the regime of the man Obama was greeting with such deference today.
Otto Reich also notes that a legitimizing handshake with an American president has been a long-held aspiration of the thuggish Castro brothers -- but withheld by presidents of both parties. That is, until today.
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