Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"Lo cortés no quita lo valiente" - entre apretones y palabras!

See video at NYT here.

My two cents on what every Cubahead is talking about today:

There's an old Spanish saying: "Lo cortés no quita lo valiente."
(Being courteous does not mean you can't also be valiant.)

I for one like Obama's style. First he shakes hands with Raúl (lo cortés). Remember, Raúl and Obama are two of the just three or four six foreign heads of state explicitly invited by South Africa to speak at Mandela's funeral service.  And both of them were invited to speak for very clear and justifiable historical reasons.

(H/T to Phil Peters for the correction and his own pair of excellent posts here and here on the handshake affair).

But then, in his speech, Obama says:

"There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Mandiba's struggle for freedom but do not tolerate dissent from their own people" (lo valiente).

A picture may be worth a thousand words, and the above picture is generating thousands of words, tweets, and Facebook discussions. But one should listen to his words as well!

Priceless Garincha: Obama's quote.
Followed by Raúl's comment: "I knew it. Why did I shake his hand!"

The handshake was a show of class to one of the other invited guest speakers at the funeral of a man being remembered (among other things) for being able to constructively engage in dialogue and negotiation with his adversaries.  He was not "bowing down" to the relatively short Raúl, as some have ridiculously suggested.  The real story is the handshake combined with what Obama said for the whole world to hear later in clear reference to Cuba and other similarly repressive governments.

If this is a hint at how Obama would engage and negotiate with Raúl in some not to faraway future, bring on the talks!

And while Raúl claimed in his own speech later that:

"It is only through dialogue and cooperation that discrepancies can be resolved and civilized relations established between those who think differently."

He said these words just as his own government unleashed a wave of arrests and detentions back home in Cuba against scores peaceful demonstrations on the 20th anniversary of the United Nation's adoption of the Universal Declaration if Human Rights.

***

For a very perceptive analysis of the handshake AND the speech see Marc Caputo's column in the Miami Herald.  Caputo's article also includes the entire text of Obama's speech - the video of which you can see here.  By the way, Caputo's fine reflection also inspired some of what I wrote above. (H/T to Ric Herrero of the Cuba Study Group who turned me on to that article).

You can listen to Raúl's entire speech here. For my money, while it reflected an understandable pride in Revolutionary Cuba's past steadfast support of Mandela's anti-arartheid struggle (while the U.S. either looked the other way or supported the other side!), the speech was also delivered in an off-putting, party-line, and unnecessarily militaristic manner - but then again - it's Raúl.

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