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Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Arrive in Cuba for Official Visit amidst Controversy

His Royal Highness Prince Charles and his wife, HRH Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, arrived in Cuba for the British Royal Family’s first official visit to Cuba since its Revolution in the 1950s.

Their Royal Highnesses in Cuba posing near an image of Che Guevara.  Photo: Reuters/  BBC News

Their Royal Highnesses in Cuba posing near an image of Che Guevara.

Photo: Reuters/ BBC News

Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, are set to spend three days in Cuba, as part of their Caribbean tour which includes visits to Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and the Cayman Islands.  

This visit takes place amidst complicated relations between Cuba, Venezuela, the United States, and many other Latin American countries.

It is expected that Prince Charles will lay a wreath before the monument to José Martí at the Revolution Square, following standard protocol for most heads of state who visit Cuba. Then, the heir to the British throne will meet with President Miguel-Díaz-Canel.

A Royal spokesman stated that the purpose of the trip was to highlight “the growing bilateral relationship with the UK and [to showcase] some of the cultural links between the two countries.”

It is reported that “their Royal Highnesses are looking forward to experiencing the culture and meeting the people of Cuba.”

Their Royal Highnesses arriving at the airport in Havana, greeted by Vice Minister of Foreign Relations Ana Teresita González Fraga.  Photo: EFE/  Diario de las Américas

Their Royal Highnesses arriving at the airport in Havana, greeted by Vice Minister of Foreign Relations Ana Teresita González Fraga.

Photo: EFE/ Diario de las Américas

Andrew Lewer, a Conservative Member of the British Parliament, commented on the controversial visit, “The royal family doesn’t make these decisions. It’s the Foreign Office, so the royal family themselves shouldn’t be blamed for this. Our friends in the United States, the many Cubans in Florida, will rightly be perplexed at the sight of the British royal family making a visit, going on tour, looking around the place, at a time when these despicable acts are taking place.”

Furthermore, Julian Lewis, another Conservative Member of Parliament, stated, “It is not for a constitutional monarch on a royal visit to get sucked into political confrontation. He will constantly have to balance the need to behave diplomatically with the danger of seeming to endorse the regime and being used as a propaganda tool by it.”

United States Senator Rick Scott, formerly governor of the US State of Florida, communicated his concern to British Prime Minister Theresa May, stating, “Why would the British government want to recognize Juan Guaidó as the new President of Venezuela when we all know the Castro regime is the one propping up Maduro, dictator in Venezuela... and then at the same time have the Prince, who has unbelievable worldwide influence, go prop up the regime?”

A royal spokesman responded to the controversy, “This is part of our longstanding approach towards Cuba of engagement and frank dialogue over the issues that divide us, like human rights, but also the engagement towards progress on the matters that bridge us together.”

Chris Bennett, managing director of The Caribbean Council, commented that this visit may be an opportunity for Prince Charles to talk privately with Díaz-Canel about human rights issues in Cuba or the crisis in Venezuela, not publicly, however, since Prince Charles is not a political figure.

Bennet goes on to add that this visit is a display that “the United Kingdom wants closer ties to Cuba and that the United Kingdom has a policy independent from the United States.”  

British and Cuban ties were strengthened in 2016 when British Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond visited Cuba on an official trip while he was Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. This visit took place during the Obama administration which also sought to strengthen ties between the United States and Cuba.