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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Obama Shakes Hands with Castro on International Human Rights Day

Pete Souza, The Obama-Biden Transition Project

President Obama is coming under a lot of criticism for his behavior on International Human Rights. The most recent criticism comes after Obama shook hands with Cuban President Raul Castro at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in South Africa.

Freedom House rated Cuba as “not free” in a 2013 report on human rights. The report pointed to a rise in short-term detentions of political dissidents. The detentions spiked in Cuba on several occasions last year. There was a spike in March when the late and former Pope Benedict XVI visited the country. Another spike took place in July when activists Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero became involved in a car crash that killed both of them. And another took place on Human Rights Day. It has been alleged that the crash that killed Paya and Cepero happened after Paya’s car was deliberately forced off the road. 

Obama’s administration has attempted to improve relations with Cuba since the death of Fidel Castro.
“More serious thinking has to be given to an American diplomatic strategy that will encourage freedom in Cuba, and we should assess what might work and what hasn’t worked in the past,” said Arch Puddington, Vice President of Freedom House.

“Cuba is still a hellish dictatorship, but at the same time it is a country that is undergoing a measured amount of change,” he said.

Criticism of the handshake came from several lawmakers in the United States. 

The most powerful statement came from Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.) who told Fox News, “It is nauseating. He shook the hand of a murderer, a thug, and those are bloody hands.”

Ros-Lehtinen fled Cuba with her family when she was a child.

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