06 April 2018 |FRANCO ORDOÑEZ | McClatchy
White House: No Trump handshake for Raul Castro
WAIf President Donald Trump and Cuban leader Raul Castro get close at next week’s Latin America summit, White House aides know what to do: Stop him from having a hand shake that would make headlines around the world.
The two leaders will be in close proximity at the United Nations-like gathering in Lima, Peru, but administration staffers do not want Trump to make news, as his predecessor did three years ago.
“There are always bumps between all the leaders at the summit, but my expectation is that we will try to keep President Trump as far away as from leaders that don’t share United States values and like-minded perspectives,” a senior administration official said.
This will be Trump’s first visit to Latin America as president; he will attend the April 13-14 Summit of the Americas, focused “democratic governance fighting corruption.” Trump will then travel to Bogota, Colombia to meet its president, Juan Manuel Santos.
Cuba hasn’t officially confirmed Castro’s attendance, but the administration has been told Cuban officials have RSVPed with the Peruvians.
There is already anticipation over whether a meeting will take place with Castro since Trump has sought to reverse the pro-engagement policies of former President Barack Obama that ended a half century of Cold War animosity.
The Summits of the Americas are institutionalized gatherings of the heads of state and government of the Western Hemisphere where leaders discuss common policy issues, affirm shared values and commit to concerted actions at the national and regional level to address continuing and new challenges faced in the Americas. The Eighth Summit of the Americas will be held on April 13 and 14, 2018 in Lima, Peru.
In 2015, a year after announcing plans to improve relations, Obama made international headlines when he was caught on camera exchanging greetings and a handshake with Castro at the opening of the Summit of the Americas in Panama.
This year, however, a senior administration official said it’s not the right time for Trump and Castro to meet. The White House has been clear that it will not engage with Cuba under current conditions, including a lack of democracy and military control of the economy.
Since becoming president, Trump has singled out Cuba as among the communist governments that have delivered only “anguish and failure” to its people.
Last summer in Miami, Trump announced he was keeping a campaign promise to roll back the Obama-era policy of engagement with Cuba and reinstated some travel and commercial restrictions.
Trump officials who have studied the Peru summit protocol say there there will be some natural separation between the two leaders. The heads of state will be introduced alphabetically in Spanish. They also don’t expect Castro—who has announced he will soon step down from the presidency—to reach out to the United States either.
“Truthfully, this being Raul Castro’s last hurrah, we expect he’ll be relatively presidential in terms of his demeanor. He’s not going to make a big show at the summit itself.”