It may have taken the death of Mandela to allow it to happen, but it is a sign of the times that it did. A US president shaking hands with a Castro. Almost unheard of. In fact the only other serving US President to have shaken a Castro's hand until today was Bill Clinton at a UN summit in 2000.
It is a truly historic moment. Remember that Eisenhower refused to meet Fidel Castro and it was Tricky Dicky Nixon, as vice-president, who talked with him in 1959. Since then relations between the two countries have been poisoned by an incessant hostility emanating from Washington that was fueled by the rancour and hatred of those members of the Cuban bourgeoisie whom the Castros dispossessed.
Don't forget how the US sabotaged the country: setting off bombs in department stores, lighting the cane fields, murdering youngsters who were sent to teach the peasants to read and write, attempting to kill Raúl and Fidel. Don't forget the invasion at the Bay of Pigs and the even bigger invasion plan of 1962 that was only thwarted by the siting of the Soviet missiles. Then there is the insidious violence of the embargo that limits the availability of life-saving drugs and medical equipment, that has caused suffering , hunger and anxiety as well as an estimated $1.1trillion of losses to the Cuban economy. All of this done in the service of and often by the employment of a minatory minority who live mainly in Florida and who have never stopped sticking pins in the voodoo dolls they keep of the Castro brothers.
But as I posted here last month, my guess is that Obama and these anti-Castro cronies are now at daggers drawn because it was they who stuck the knife into his medical care bill, froze Capitol Hill and laid-off thousands of federal employees without pay for weeks. The political is so often the personal. If I were Obama I would want to avenge the hurt they caused and the one thing that he can do that will hurt them forever is if he were to make an irreversible rapprochement with Cuba NOW before the end of his term. So that no matter who succeeds him in 2016, there will be no return to the Cold War in the Caribbean.
Look carefully at this video, as significant as the handshake itself is the person standing next to Raúl. It is Dilma Rousseff, the President of Brazil, which is fast becoming Cuba's biggest business partner and the coming superpower of Latin America. Brazil is building in Cuba what will be the Caribbean's biggest container terminal outside of the Mississipi. This terminal will be able to take the new generation of super tankers and container ships that will shortly be using the widened Panama Canal. I do not believe it was an accident that she stood there and allowed Raúl to be the first for Obama to greet. Obama had to greet her and I ask you, is she not saying by this gesture: "If you want to shake my hand, you'll have to shake this man's too?" Imagine if Obama had snubbed Raúl and she, in solidarity with Raúl, had refused to shake Obama's hand in return?
The future is right here in this video. You read it here first.