The world may be abuzz over President Barack Obama‘s decision to shake the hand of Cuban leader Raul Castro at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, but the late South African president most certainly would have approved.
After all, Mandela drew inspiration from the Cuban revolution, which culminated in Fidel Castro taking power in 1959. Among the stated goals of the revolution was ending segregation– America’s own version of apartheid had provided an economic incentive for similar policies in Cuba (PDF) — though that effort still has a way to go before it’s a reality.
Then there was Cuba’s role in Namibia’s war for independence from white-controlled South Africa. On NewsOne Now with Roland Martin, actor and activist Danny Glover, who played Mandela in a 1987 television movie, said that was a reason that Mandela would not disavow Castro, despite intense pressure.
“Most of us know about the audio clip when Mandela at his inauguration met Castro and pushed away his hand,” Glover recalled, “and grabbed him and held him — it’s clear to him and most of the audience — he said Castro, ‘Without you, this doesn’t happen.'”
Cuban troops helped to keep South Africans from derailing Namibian independence, Glover continued. “People who followed that, moment to moment, from 1975 through that period of time that ended up with the independence of Namibia, understood clearly the role that Cuban troops had played.”
Glover shared additional insights on the linked histories of South Africa and Cuba, in the clip below.