President Obama could have at least squeezed in a brief lecture on human rights when he extended his hand to the leader of a longtime adversary, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said Tuesday.
Rubio, a son of Cuban immigrants, was complaining about Obama’s handshake with Cuban President Raul Castro, a brief interaction that took place at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in South Africa.
“If he was going to shake his hand, he should have asked him about those basic freedoms Mandela was associated with that are denied in Cuba,” Rubio told ABC News.
Obama actually did make reference to authoritarian leaders during his eulogy for Mandela.
“There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people,” Obama said.
Rubio’s response represents the first real criticism Obama has received from a major Republican for the handshake. Former President Jimmy Carter called the handshake “something significant” and expressed hope that it “will be an omen for the future.”
This post has been updated.