Royal visit to Cuba is in contrast to US isolation policy

25 March 2019, 03:14 | Updated: 25 March 2019, 06:03

Prince Charles and his wife Camilla have become the first British royals to visit communist-run Cuba.

The couple flew into the capital Havana on Sunday on a Royal Air Force plane, beginning a three-day trip which is part of a wider Caribbean tour.

The visit signifies growing ties between the two countries and it contrasts with the actions of US president Donald Trump, who has sought to isolate the communist state once run by Fidel Castro.

After his arrival, the Prince of Wales, 70, laid a wreath of flowers at a memorial to independence hero Jose Marti on Havana's Revolution Square.

The square is dominated by the images of fighters including Che Guevara.

On Monday evening Charles and Camilla will dine with the Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel.

It will be the second meeting between the prince and the president, as they met last November in London.

The royal couple will also tour the capital's colonial district, look at antique British cars and visit community and green energy projects.

Visiting a museum dedicated to Marti, Charles told the curator that he would like to spend more time in Cuba, adding: "You might get fed up with us very quickly."

He added: "I am sorry to have dragged you in on a Sunday. I hope it is not inconvenient for you."

Three years ago, the US president at the time, Barack Obama, tried to improve relations between the US and Cuba but Mr Trump has moved to reverse this since he took over two years ago.

The UK, however, sees opportunities in the country, which has a population of almost 12 million, and the royal visit is at the request of the government.

It is hoped cultural and business ties will benefit.

Only a small number of well-known British companies trade in Cuba but opportunities are expected to increase as the country's economy opens up.

Cuba is also a growing tourism market - around 200,000 Britons visit each year.

However, the visit does not include meeting political dissidents or critics of Cuba's single-party system, a decision which has sparked criticism from Cuban exiles.

When the trip was confirmed in February, the Foreign Office said: "This is part of our longstanding approach towards Cuba of engagement and open 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."

Asked if it was anticipated that human rights would be something the Prince of Wales would raise specifically, the spokesman added: "Human rights is a subject that we discuss government to government with the Cubans.

"We've done so regularly over the years and we continue to do so, there is also an EU dialogue with the Cubans which we support."