BELIZE CITY (Reuters) – Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate arrived in Belize on Saturday for a week-long Caribbean tour marred by a local protest before it began, amid growing scrutiny of the British Empire’s colonial ties to the region.
The arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge coincides with the celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s 70th year on the throne, and comes nearly four months after Barbados voted to become a republic, severing ties with the monarchy but remaining part of the British-led Commonwealth. Nations.
Three miniature cannons saluted the couple as their plane landed in Belize City before a military band played the national anthems of Belize and Britain in a welcome party that kept the media at bay.
William inspected a guard of honor as the band played the local creole song “Ding Ding Walla”, then set off with his wife to meet Prime Minister John Briceno.
Briceno told Reuters afterwards that the Duke and Duchess are “excited to be here in Belize and we are delighted to have them,” adding, “We wish them a fruitful and memorable visit.”
The pair are set to stay in Belize, formerly British Honduras, until Tuesday morning. On the eve of their departure, an event scheduled for Sunday was canceled when a few dozen villagers staged a protest.
Residents of Indian Creek, an indigenous Mayan village in southern Belize, said they were annoyed that the royal couple’s helicopter had been given permission to land at a local soccer field without prior consultation. Read more
The village is in a land dispute with Fauna & Flora International (FFI), a protection group backed by the royal family, sparking resentment over colonial-era territorial settlements still disputed by indigenous groups.
The Belizean government said a visit to a different location was being planned instead. Kensington Palace confirmed in a statement that the schedule would be changed due to “sensitive issues” related to the Indian Creek community.
In a statement, FFI said it had purchased land in nearby Boden Creek from private owners in December 2021, and that it would conserve and protect the area’s wildlife while supporting the traditional livelihoods and rights of local residents.
Without directly addressing the dispute, FFI said it had purchased the land in the interest of the environmental integrity of the area, resident communities and Belize as a whole, and pledged to maintain an “open and ongoing dialogue” with the local community.
The Duke and Duchess are scheduled to visit Jamaica and the Bahamas after Belize. Meetings and a variety of events are scheduled with politicians and a range of civic leaders.
Dickie Arbiter, Queen Elizabeth’s press secretary from 1988 to 2000, described the tour as a goodwill visit that should give a temporary boost to the family’s popularity.
Today, he said, many people in former colonies see the monarchy as an anachronism that must be abandoned. But he expected that little would change while Elizabeth remained on the throne.
“The royal family is pragmatic,” he said. “She knows she can’t look at these countries as countries of the world forever and one day.”
Discussions about colonial-era persecution, including possible reparations for descendants of slaves in Jamaica, may prompt more states to emulate the latest move by Barbados. Read more
Caroline Cooper, professor emeritus at the University of the West Indies, said the royal couple’s visit was unlikely to dissuade Jamaica from opting for republic status.
“I think there is a wave of public opinion against the monarchy,” she said.
Some in Belize, which only gained independence from Britain in 1981, are talking warmly about staying in the fold.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for them to appreciate the country’s multiculturalism, natural attractions, and enjoy our culinary practices,” said Jocelyn Ramirez, a manager in Cayo District, Western Belize.
Others are less enthusiastic.
Alan McCoy, a mechanic in Belize City, said he “didn’t care much” about the royal family.
“They are no better than any of us,” he said.
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Additional reporting by Jose Sanchez in Belize City Additional reporting by Dave Graham, Kate Chapel and Cassandra Garrison; Editing by David Aller Garcia, Edmund Kellman, Frances Kerry, Diane Kraft and Jonathan Otis
Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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