Photo: Barack Obama and Raul Castro
Retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro eulogized Nelson Mandela as “an apostle of peace” and praised younger brother - and successor - Raul for his handshake with U.S. President Barack Obama at the memorial service for the father of democratic South Africa.
“I congratulate Comrade Raul for his brilliant performance, and especially for his firmness and dignity when with a friendly but firm greeting to the head of government of the United States he said in English, ‘Mr. President, I am Castro,’” Fidel wrote in Thursday’s edition of Communist Party daily Granma.
Both Obama and Raul Castro spoke during the Dec. 10 event in Johannesburg’s FNB stadium and their impromptu encounter sparked some criticism from Cuban exiles in the United States.
Thursday’s extensive article represents the 87-year-old Fidel’s first public comment on the passing of long-time friend Mandela, who died Dec. 5 at the age of 95.
“Mandela was a complete man, profound revolutionary and radically socialist, who with great stoicism withstood 27 years of solitary confinement,” Castro said. “I have never ceased to admire his honesty, modesty and enormous merit.”
Fidel, who stepped down in July 2006 after falling seriously ill, also recalled Cuba’s military intervention against South African-backed rebels in Angola in the 1980s.
The performance of the Angolan army and Cuban forces against UNITA insurgents and South African troops in the 1987-1988 Battle of Cuito Cuanavale was “a turning point for the liberation of our continent and my people,” Mandela said years later during a visit to Cuba as South Africa’s first democratically elected president.