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Obama-Castro Handshake Offered Little Hint of Secret Cuba Talks

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with Cuban President Raul Castro during the official memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela at FNB Stadium December 10, 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with Cuban President Raul Castro during the official memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela at FNB Stadium December 10, 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Updated on

There was no hint in December 2013, when President Barack Obama shook hands with his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro, that something bigger was afoot between the U.S. and its Cold War nemesis.

Their encounter at a memorial service in Johannesburg for South African leader Nelson Mandela happened as Obama strode through the dignitaries’ area. While the event created media buzz, it was dismissed at the time by Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, as nothing more than a handshake.