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Obama's Handshake From Hell

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

This week at memorial services for former South African President Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama greeted a number of world leaders, including the communist dictator of Cuba, Raul Castro. The President warmly shook hands with Castro, slightly bowing during the visit to engage in pleasantries.

Instead of greeting Castro with an outstretched hand, Obama should have scolded Castro and demanded that the dictator end his support for terrorism abroad and repression at home.

Cuba today is trapped in a time warp, forever stuck in 1959, the year of the communist revolution. Cubans still drive antique cars, live in antiquated conditions and deal with immense poverty.

Communism is the antithesis of freedom, so Cubans are not allowed to exercise God given rights of speech, press, assembly, petition or religious expression. While there have been some modest reforms, the overall condition of the average Cuban is still very poor today.

Raul Castro and his brother, Fidel, have ruled Cuba with an iron fist since the communist revolution over five decades ago. To instill fear among Cubans, dissidents have been executed at home, others have been sent to slave camps, while terrorists abroad have been supported.

It is no surprise that the socialist country of Venezuela is closely tied to the Castro government. Cuba also enjoys good relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, a virulent enemy of the United States of America.

Obama’s handshake is only the second time in over 50 years that an American President has greeted a Cuban leader. The last time was in 2000 and President Bill Clinton had the good sense to shake hands with Fidel Castro in private. In contrast, Obama engaged in his reckless diplomacy in front of a worldwide audience.

This handshake from hell enraged Cuban Americans unwilling to return to their homeland and live under communism. It is another reason Cuban Americans are angry at a President who has lifted travel restrictions to Cuba. They know that the dictatorship and its cronies will be the ones on the island to benefit from the influx of 500,000 Americans each year.

Currently, there is a longstanding U.S. embargo against Cuba, and we have no diplomatic relations with the terror supporting country. Nevertheless, the President has not only allowed easier travel to Cuba, he has also opened up more cultural, educational and religious ties.

While Cuban Americans expressed their frustration with President Obama, the media erupted in celebration, saying the handshake represented a unifying moment in the aftermath of Mandela’s death. For example, John King of CNN was very supportive, gushing that the greeting signified that “the president was showing respect for the moment.”

Not surprisingly, King missed the irony of his statement. The “moment” was supposed to be about praising a man considered to be a “liberator;” however, the President used the occasion to reward an oppressor. Despite the enhanced ties, Cuba has not abandoned their support of anti-American regimes and terrorist organizations. According to U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), “the Castro regime sponsors terrorism abroad.” He also believes the country has “close ties to terrorist organizations” and terrorizes its “own people.”

The leader of a terrorist state does not deserve a presidential greeting; he should be facing a trial at the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

Our country should not lift sanctions against Cuba. Instead, we should be working to support dissidents who want to bring about the end of repression in the country.

The United States should stand for human rights and freedom and oppose communist dictatorships, like the Castro regime in Cuba. When President Obama greeted Castro on an international stage, it sent a message to people across the globe. Sadly, it was the wrong message.

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