Prince Charles and Camilla become the first British royals to visit Cuba
The couple will tour Havana's restored colonial district, review a parade of antique British cars and dine with the Cuban president on the historic three-day trip
Charles, Prince of Wales, and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, landed in Havana from Barbados on March 24 for the first official trip by the British royal family to Communist-run Cuba, even as the United States - Britain's top ally - seeks to isolate the island nation.
Shortly after arriving on a Royal Air Force plane, the heir to the British throne laid a wreath of roses at the open-air memorial built to honour national hero, the poet and essayist Jose Marti, on Havana's Revolution Square, which is dominated by massive portraits of guerrilla fighters including Ernesto "Che" Guevara.
During his historic visit, which is part of a broader tour of the Caribbean, the 70-year-old Prince of Wales is set to dine with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who will receives Charles at the presidential Palace of the Revolution on March 25. This will be their second meeting in a year; the 58-year old Cuban president paid the prince a visit last November in London on his first overseas tour since replacing Raul Castro last April.
Charles will also tour Havana's restored colonial district, visit community and green energy projects and review a parade of antique British cars on his three-day trip.
The royal visit, in line with a broader normalisation in relations between the West and Cuba, comes three years after one by former United States president Barack Obama, then billed as the start of a new chapter for ties between the old Cold War foes. Since Donald Trump became president, however, the US has reverted to its decades-old strategy of seeking to pressure Cuba to change, including tightening its crippling trade embargo on the island.
"It's always good for Cuba to strengthen its relations with important international actors, but all the more so when the United States has a president responding to the interests of extreme right-wing people who want to hurt Cuba," said one Havana resident, Arian Rubio, 26, a historian.
William LeoGrande, a professor of government at American University, said such visits by high level delegations of major powers "lend legitimacy to the Cuban government and represent an implicit warning to the United States that hostile actions against Cuba may incur a diplomatic cost with important allies".
The UK government had asked the royal couple to add Cuba to their Caribbean tour of former and current British territories in hopes of boosting commercial and cultural ties and political influence.
Opportunities to do business are expected to grow in the expanding tourism sector of Caribbean's largest island, which already attracts about 200,000 British tourists annually. Moreover, Britain has sought to drum up more trade with alternative partners since the referendum to exit the European Union three years ago.
Updated: March 25, 2019 11:33 AM