U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuba’s leader Raul Castro have made history Saturday, after the shook hands in a very symbolical gesture. The two leaders seek to normalize ties between Washington and Havana after decades of animosity between the United States and Cuba.
Their first formal encounter took place at the beginning of the Summit of the Americas in Panama, which is dominated by the reconciliation between the two Cold War enemies.
The United States President, who was not even born when Cuba’s revolution took place, said his country no longer wants to impose its will on Latin America. “We are respectful of the differences among our countries,” Obama explained, just before the summit got started. “The days in which our agenda in this hemisphere so often presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity, those days are past”, added the American president.
Obama said that United States’ relations with Cuba are beginning a new chapter and expressed his hope that the new relationship will create an environment that will improve the life of Cuban people.
Obama and Castro are due to meet again on Saturday and discuss about their efforts to rebuild full diplomatic ties and stimulate trade and travel between the two nations.
The United States is seriously considering to remove Cuba from a list of countries which it says are sponsoring terrorism.
This step would remove a major hurdle in the effort to restore normal diplomatic relations between Havana and Washington. It could also lead to the reopening of embassies in both capital, that have been closed for 54 years.
The greeting that happened at the summit was described by an American official as an “informal interaction” and not an extensive conversation, which is due to happen on Saturday. The last time President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro me was in December 2013, during Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in South Africa.
Is the first time Cuba has been included at the summit, along with the Central, North and South American nations invited to attend. The U.S. had blocked Cuba from participating in previous similar events.
If the relationship with communist-run Cuba seems to be on the road of reconciliation, the ties between the United States and Havana’s closest ally, Venezuela, are as cold as ever.
Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro visited a monument to victims of the US invasion of Panama in 1989, shortly before his arrival for the summit.
Image Source: NY Daily News