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President Obama, Cuban Leader Raul Castro Shake Hands In Historic Meeting

It was the first significant in-person encounter between leaders of the two countries since the Cuban Revolution of 1959. The encounter comes as the Obama administration moves to ease relations with Cuba's communist government.

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After more than 50 years of silence between two countries, a brief handshake.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro shook hands and greeted one another Friday night in Panama City, the first significant encounter between leaders of the two countries since the Cuban Revolution of 1959.

Obama and Castro are both in Panama for the Summit of the Americas, a meeting of Western Hemisphere leaders. They have different schedules for most of the day, but are expected to share the stage during the conference's opening ceremony, Reuters reported.

Bernadette Meehan, National Security Council spokesperson, described the brief encounter between the two as an informal interaction, and said "no substantive conversation" occurred between the two.

As Obama and Castro greeted each other, flashes from nearby cameras flooded the crowd.


The two leaders spoke by telephone earlier in the week in anticipation of the meeting, the Associated Press reported. The telephone call was the second known conversation between presidents of the two countries in over 50 years. The previous conversation took place in December, shortly before Obama announced efforts to ease diplomatic relations with the island nation.

As the AP reported:

In another major step on Thursday, the U.S. and Cuba held their highest-level diplomatic meeting since cutting off relations more than half a century ago. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez met behind closed doors in Panama City for a session that the State Department described as lengthy and productive.

Relationships between the United States and Cuba have been hostile ever since Fidel Castro — Raúl's older brother — overthrew dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959, forming a communist government aligned with the Soviet Union.

Recently, tensions between the two countries have eased, with the Obama administration lifting a travel ban that prevented Americans from visiting the island. However, a trade embargo that has prevented most trade between Cuba and the United States since 1960 remains in place.


Nicolás Medina Mora is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Nicolás Medina Mora at nicolas.mora@buzzfeed.com.

Salvador Hernandez is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Salvador Hernandez at salvador.hernandez@buzzfeed.com.

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