Prince Charles lands in Cuba for historic visit

The heir to the British throne became the first member of the British royal family to visit the communist-run island. The UK supported the trip in hopes of boosting commercial and cultural ties with Havana.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall landed in Havana on Sunday, marking the first official trip by a member of the British royal family to Cuba. The historic three-day visit is part of the couple's broader Caribbean tour of former and current British territories

Upon arrival, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla laid a wreath of flowers at the memorial to independence hero Jose Marti on Havana's Revolution Square.

Trade on the agenda

The UK government prompted the royal couple to add Cuba to their Caribbean tour in hopes of boosting commercial and cultural ties, as well as political influence.

British trade with Cuba was less than $100 million last year and only a handful of well-known British companies have investments on the island through subsidiaries.

Read more:Britain's eternal heir to the throne: Prince Charles at 70

But Britain sees potential opportunities to expand its businesses there, as the Caribbean's largest island continues opening up its beleaguered, state-dominated economy.

In particular, the island has seen an expansion in its tourism sector, which attracts some 200,000 British tourists annually.

Prince Charles and his wife Camilla are the first British royals to visit the island

Charles to meet Cuban president

The heir to the British throne toured Havana's historic old district on Monday. They are scheduled to have dinner with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel on Monday.

It will be the second meeting between the two. Last November, the 58-year old Cuban president visited the prince in London, during his first tour abroad since succeeding Raul Castro to the presidency last April.

On Tuesday, Charles will also participate in a groundbreaking ceremony for a solar park in a special economic zone in Mariel, 45 kilometers east of Havana, which was built with British investment.

Related Subjects

High-level officials were supposed to accompany the Prince of Wales, but plans were frustrated by the proximity of the trip to the now-postponed March 29 Brexit deadline.   

The last official visit from Britain to the communist island took place in 2016, when then-foreign minister and current Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond traveled to Cuba just as relations between Havana and Washington were thawing.

Since then, the administration of US President Donald Trump has rolled back the bulk of his predecessor Barack Obama's Cuba policy.

The US under Trump reverted to its decades-old strategy of seeking to pressure Cuba to change, including tightening a long-standing and crippling trade embargo on the island.

jcg/se (EFE, Reuters, AP, dpa)

Prince and Patron: Prince Charles shows his favorite art works

Under a cloak of mystery

The Prince of Wales says that he's been fascinated by this cloak for as long as he can remember. Its erstwhile owner is believed to have been Napoleon himself: The cloak was reportedly found after the Battle of Waterloo, where Napoleon suffered defeat. The design is meant to have been inspired by the Berbers of North Africa, who wear a similar garment.

Prince and Patron: Prince Charles shows his favorite art works

Aging with grace

This bust depicts Queen Victoria (1819-1901) in her youth. Until recently, Victoria remained the longest-reigning British monarch, having spent more than 63 years on the throne. However, Prince Charles' own mother, Queen Elizabeth II, broke that record on September 9, 2015. His great-great-great-grandmother Victoria would be proud.

Prince and Patron: Prince Charles shows his favorite art works

The women in Charles' life

Under this portrait of Charles' wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, hangs a picture of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Prince Charles was reportedly very fond of his grandmother — so much so that he purchased this painting. It is merely a study done by recently deceased British portrait painter Michael Noakes. "It captures the essence of my grandmother's personality," Charles said.

Prince and Patron: Prince Charles shows his favorite art works

A refuge of peace

Prince Charles helped design this circular space himself. It is a quiet and somewhat contemplative room, inspired by a traditional souk and decked out with cushions and low sofas under the four-meter-wide open canopy. The cedar pavilion was produced by Afghan artist Nasser Mansouri.

Prince and Patron: Prince Charles shows his favorite art works

Recovery through art

One of Prince Charles' charitable organizations, "Turquoise Mountain," provides training programs in Afghanistan to artists and artisans. Abdul Matin Malekzada, whose bowls are on display in this image, is one of the 500 people who have benefited from the scheme. The organization has also helped restore 150 buildings in Kabul's historic Old Town that were destroyed during the war.

Prince and Patron: Prince Charles shows his favorite art works

Prince of canvases

The Prince of Wales is also an artist in his own right. These two watercolor paintings are among several of the heir apparent's works that can be seen at the exhibition at Buckingham Palace, which continues until September 30.

Prince and Patron: Prince Charles shows his favorite art works

In the public eye

The exhibition comes just a few months before Prince Charles' 70th birthday on November 14. As Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip have taken more of a backseat in official affairs, the Prince of Wales and his sons, William, Duke of Cambridge, and Harry, Duke of Sussex, are increasingly getting involved in state occasions. The exhibition shows intimate aspects of the heir apparent's life.

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