Prince Charles visits Cuba on first British royal visit

Darren Mikus, World News Editor

Charles, Prince of Wales, visited Cuba March 24, accompanied by his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. The two royals spent their first full day Monday touring Old Havana, the capital’s historic center.

Prince Charles, 70, who has been heir to the British throne since he was 4 years old, toured historic sites and a solar park. He met with biomedical researchers and spoke with entrepreneurs as Cuba begins to liberalize its real estate market.

He met with Miguel Diaz-Canel, president of Cuba since April 2018, on March 26, according to The Associated Press.

He laid a wreath at the memorial to José Martí, a writer and independence activist who was killed in battle against Spanish troops in 1895.

“I am very excited by this visit. The fact that he wanted to come here to see us, that for me is very special,” said Carlos Acosta, a former Cuban dancer.

During their stop in Old Havana, the royal couple visited Bohemia, a café facing the iconic Plaza Vieja.

Manager Annalisa Gallina said she was thrilled to receive the royal couple.

“It’s been the first time in real life that we receive a real prince at the Cafe Bohemia, although at the Cafe Bohemia all customers are princes. It has been a very big emotion, with several days of preparations, from learning how to greet him to learning what he wants to drink or what tea he prefers,” she said, according to The Associated Press.

Gallina’s comment refers to the fact that the state visit was carefully choreographed, including where the royals stayed, visited and drank tea.

Prince Charles, an avid supporter and grower of organic fruits and vegetables, visited an organic farm as part of his second day, according to The Associated Press.

On the agenda, there is no reference to meeting with political dissidents or other critics of Cuba’s single-party, and nominally communist, system, a decision prompting criticism from such organizations as well as Cuban exiles in the United States.

The choice to conduct a state visit in Cuba also prompted criticism from American politicians, mostly in or from Florida, where most Cuban Americans live.

Republican senator and former governor of Florida Rick Scott asked Prince Charles to cancel the trip last month due to Cuba’s support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. He also cited the Cuban government’s “decades-long history of persecuting and imprisoning its defectors and repressing its people.”

The Trump administration recently began to tighten sanctions on both countries, according to The Associated Press.

Though the British government is supportive of President Donald Trump’s Venezuela policy, it, along with most governments in Europe and the Americas, is expanding relations with Cuba.

The visit came after the Cuban government concluded a nationwide referendum on whether or not to adopt a new constitution. The new document, which is perceived by many to be more liberal than the previous one, does not alter the one-party system or the regime’s 60-year commitment to communism.

Editor’s Note: Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.