Charles and Camilla become the first British royals to visit Cuba

HAVANA, March 24th After being welcomed at the airport, the prince and his wife started their visit by laying a wreath at the memorial for Cuba’s national hero, the revolutionary essayist and poet, Jose Marti.

Their visit comes at a time when diplomatic relations between Cuba and the US have taken a turn for the worse after President Trump revoked most of the policies brought in by his predecessor, Barack Obama, to normalise relations.

The relationship between the two countries has been plagued by antagonism ever since controversial revolutionary leader Fidel Castro overthrew the US-backed regime in Havana in 1959 to establish a socialist state allied with the Soviet Union.

His brother, Raul Castro, another former president of the country, has warned that Trump is initiating a path of confrontation by restricting tourism for US citizens and re-introducing trade sanctions, making it a tricky time for the UK to hold out the hand of friendship.

The British Government has always maintains it prefers to keep an open dialogue, however, while retaining the right to challenge, where necessary, over issues such as human rights – although had previously ruled a royal visit was a step too far.

But it seems that the death in 2016 of Fidel Castro and the retirement last year of Raul, has paved the way for a new rapprochement.Charles and Camilla become the first British royals to visit Cuba

With Brexit in crisis, the British government also spies an opportunity to drum up trade and improve cultural, political, academic and environmental links. In a clear sign of how important the royal tour is, government minister, Lord Ahmad, a minister of state in the Foreign Office with special responsibility for the Commonwealth, has flown out to join the prince and his wife and will be staying on after they have returned to the UK to try and capitalise on the opportunities their presence has opened up.

 ‘The tour is enabling conversations to take place that wouldn’t have happened otherwise,’ a senior source said. ‘This give us the opportunity to develop our relationship with Cuba. It is then up to the British government to connect and do business. ‘

The prince and the duchess, whose visit was exclusively revealed by the Daily Mail last year, will tomorrow be greeted at the Palacio de la Revolution by the new president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, who although handpicked by the Castros is seen as a moderating influence.

Mr Diaz-Canel has rolled out the red carpet for the couple, whom he met at Clarence House last November, suggesting he, too, appreciates its significance both now and moving forwards. He and his wife are also hosting a high-profile official dinner for the couple.

The trip will take in much of the colour and highlights of Havana – salsa dancing, a classic car event, a visit to an outdoor boxing gym and a meeting with musicians from the Buena Vista Social Club.

But there are also events for entrepreneurs, organic farming and community projects. Charles and Camilla become the first British royals to visit Cuba as they land in Havana

Asked whether the prince would be raising this during his visit, Clarence House declined to comment but a source said that the prince had always made it clear that his job as a statesman was to listen and foster relations in order to afford change, not to lecture.

That said, the prince has long taken a stand against China in personal protest at its human rights record, particularly because of his support for the Dalai Lama, and has previously refused to attend a state banquet in the country’s honour or facilitate a visit there.

He and his wife are not scheduled to meet Raul Castro but officials have not entirely ruled out the possibility. The couple yesterday concluded a week-long tour of the Queen’s realms in the Caribbean at the request of the British Government, visiting five islands including Grenada, where the couple walked along pristine Grand Anse beach to highlight the beauty of the region.

Camilla, elegant in a kaftan-style tunic and trousers by Anna Valentine, kicked off her wedges to display a shell-pink painted toes, but Charles kept his brown brogues resolutely laced up. In all the couple’s 12-day tour is taking in six counties and more than 50 engagements, despite both of them now being in their seventies.
(www.dailymail.co.uk)