When Prince Charles and his wife Camilla gain a foothold in Havana on Sunday, they will make history by embarking on the first official visit by members of the British royal family to Cuba. However, they do so at a time when much of the Western world denounces Cuba's role in the developing political and humanitarian crisis in its close socialist partner, Venezuela.
It was a journey that seemed impossible just a few years ago, before former US President Barack Obama and former Cuban President Raul Castro thawed more than half a century of strained relations between their North American neighbors and their allies. However, with this breakthrough in 2016, the world is a very different place.
President Donald Trump has reversed many of the Obama era's policies toward Cuba and reintroduced travel and trade restrictions. His sharp rhetoric has only become more aggressive since the presidential crisis in Venezuela. The role of Cuban military and intelligence advisors in the service of the controversial regime of President Nicolas Maduro is one of the main concerns of the US government and its allies.
"For decades, the socialist dictatorships of Cuba and Venezuela have been trading in a very corrupt trade," Trump said in February, adding, "Maduro is not a Venezuelan patriot, he's a Cuban puppet."
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went further this month: "No nation has done more to uphold the death and daily misery of ordinary Venezuelans, including the Venezuelan military and their families, than the Communists in Havana."
Against this background of American animosity, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall will spend four days in Cuba to highlight "the growing bilateral ties with Great Britain and some cultural ties between the two countries," a royal spokesman said.
Although Charles and Camilla are the ones who need to navigate in Havana's Palacio de la Revolucion for dinner with politicians, the British government is responsible for sending them there.
"The royal family does not make these decisions," says Andrew Lewer, a member of the British Parliament for the ruling Conservative Party. "It's the State Department, so the royal family itself should not be blamed for it." "Our friends in the United States, the many Cubans in Florida, will rightly be confused when the British royal family visit and move on. at a time when these vile acts are taking place. "
Another Conservative MP, Julian Lewis, says the visit will be disagreeable to the heir of the British throne: "It is not up to a constitutional monarch who has come into political confrontation on a royal visit to behave diplomatically with the danger of supporting the regime and being used by it as a propaganda tool. "
The legendary "soft power" of the royal family has long been used by the British government as a diplomatic instrument. In this case, the UK's Office of Foreign Affairs & Commonwealth affirmed the strategic value of the visit: "This is part of our longstanding approach to Cuba's engagement and open dialogue on the issues that separate us, such as human rights, but also the commitment to progress in the things that bridge us, "a spokesman said.
This rapprochement with relations with Cuba could not be any different than the one shown by Washington in Washington.
The former Florida governor and now US Senator Rick Scott has written to British Prime Minister Theresa May to protest the royal visit, and is startled by the timing: "Why should the British government recognize Juan Guaido as the new president of Venezuela, If we all know you, the Castro regime is the one supporting Maduro, dictator in Venezuela … and then at the same time supporting the prince, who has incredible influence over the world, the regime? "
Senator Scott suggested that Prince Charles meet with dissidents in Cuba and take a sheet of President Trump's book: "He says, 'I will stand for freedom and democracy,' and that is exactly what Prince Charles should do."
There are no such meetings planned during the tour, but also no meetings with Castro, who continues to serve as the first secretary of the Communist Party. The prince and duchess will meet with current President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who recently described Trump's rhetoric against Cuba as "warlike and dirty".
It's obviously a sensitive time for Great Britain as Theresa May controls the final for Brexit. Royal visits should continue to play a key role in Britain's international relations, especially in the years immediately following his departure from the European Union.
But it is the time of this historic royal visit that makes him so controversial – especially because Britain is looking for Brexit trade. Trump is unlikely to enjoy pictures of one of Britain's most respected representatives enjoying Havana's hospitality.