Britain’s Prince of Wales visits Cuba in search of closer ties

World Today

Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, sit on a park bench next to a statue depicting John Lennon as they pose for photos, during a cultural event in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, March 26, 2019. The heir to the British throne arrived in Cuba Sunday with an agenda including visits to historic sites, a solar park, organic farm, bio-medical research center, a meeting with entrepreneurs, a cultural gala and a dinner with Cuba’s president. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are in Cuba this week. It’s an official visit by the royal couple, aimed at promoting a growing partnership between the U.K. and the Caribbean island.

CGTN’s Luis Chirino reports from Havana.

When Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, arrived in Havana to start their four-day-long visit, it marked the first time members of the British royal family had set foot on the island nation. They laid a wreath at the statue of Cuba’s National Hero poet, Jose Marti. Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel greeted them with a state ceremony and a dinner after official talks.

The presence here of the British royal family reflects the U.K. government’s interest in enhancing bilateral relations with Cuba, despite the U.S. trade embargo against the island. The British Council, an NGO, promotes cultural relations and educational opportunities. It’s contributing to Cuban projects including arts for children and classes in English.

“For us, this visit is very important since the Prince of Wales is vice-patron of the British Council and this has a meaning for our organization, which has been in Cuba for over 20 years,” said Minerva Rodriguez, British Council Director for Cuba.

Renewable energy is important to Cuba, and the company Havana Energy, with British and Chinese capital, has invested in the sector. Havana Energy CEO Andrew Macdonald told me about a new investment project by his company.

“Mariel Solar is having its groundbreaking event on Tuesday,” said Macdonald. “It’s three parks, making up a total of 50 megawatts. The first park of 15 megawatts will be online by September, and the entire project, or the entire solar park, will be online by December,  generating 50 megawatts of electricity which is a significant amount and the biggest solar park in the region.”

The project’s ground-breaking event was attended by Prince Charles and top Cuban government authorities. Speaking at the ceremony, the British Ambassador to Cuba, Antony Stokes, stressed the U.K.’s willingness to back Cuba in its renewable energy program.

“Cuba expects to meet 24 percent of its energy needs by the year 2030 based on renewable resources, and this project is another example of Britain’s willingness to boost cooperation with Cuba,” Stokes said.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall also toured cultural sites in the Old Section of Havana. One observer said the royal couple’s visit signals both sides want to move ahead on the road to economic and political reform.