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December 11, 2013

Obama shakes hands with Cuba's Raul Castro

(Continued)

Making his way to the podium for his speech, Obama also greeted Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff with a kiss on the cheek. Rousseff and Obama have clashed over reports the National Security Agency monitored her communications, leading the Brazilian leader to shelve a state trip to the U.S. earlier this year in a show of anger. In another potentially uneasy exchange, Obama also briefly greeted Afghan President Hamid Karzai, whose refusal to sign a security agreement with the U.S. before year’s end has irritated the Obama administration.

The U.S. and Cuba have recently taken small steps toward political reconciliation, raising hopes that Washington and Havana could be on the verge of a breakthrough. But skeptics caution the two countries have shown subtle signs of thaw in the past, only to fall back into old recriminations.

At a fundraiser in Miami last month, Obama argued for a renewed approach toward Cuba.

“We’ve started to see changes on the island,” he said on Nov. 8.

“We have to be creative,” he added. “And we have to be thoughtful. And we have to continue to update our policies. Keep in mind that when Castro came to power, I was just born. So the notion that the same policies that we put in place in 1961 would somehow still be as effective as they are today in the age of the Internet and Google and world travel doesn’t make sense.”

In 2009, Obama made waves when he shook hands with the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, a strident critic of the United States, at the Summit of the Americas.

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