Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall become first royals to visit in Cuba in 60 years

Camilla Tominey
The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall in Grenada earlier this week - Getty Images South America

They have already been accused of playing into the Communist regime’s propaganda machine with their royal visit to Cuba.

Now there is a chance Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall may come face to face with Fidel Castro's brother Raúl after royal aides refused to rule out a surprise appearance by the revolutionary during their controversial tour of the socialist state.

Although there are no official plans for the royal couple to meet Castro, who is First Secretary of Cuba’s Communist Party, there is speculation the 81-year-old may turn up during the three-day trip.

Raúl, who took over from his brother in 2011, was the 16th President of Cuba from 2008 to 2018, when he was succeeded by Miguel Diaz-Canel, who was hand-picked by the Castros as the first non-family member to hold power since 1976.

Although the visit is at the bequest of Dias-Canel, whose relationship with the Prince is described as “warm” after the pair met during the President’s visit to the UK in November, as Cuba’s most senior politician, there is nothing to stop Castro showing up unannounced at one of the 21 planned events.

The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall in Grenada earlier this week Credit: Getty

A British embassy source said: "I would be surprised if he turned up but we prepare for all eventualities."

The tour - which will take in Havana highlights including a visit to a boxing gym, meeting members of the Buena Vista Social Club and an encounter with one of Cuba’s most famous exports, dancer Carlos Acosta, a former principal dancer with the Royal Ballet.

The royal couple will be officially welcomed at the Palacio de la Revolucion by the President and his wife Lis Cuesta Peraza before having dinner together.

Any talk of human rights will be off the menu, however, according to a Foreign Office spokesman who said: “Human rights is a subject that we discuss government-to-government with the Cubans.” No British Prime Minister has ever set foot in Cuba.

The visit comes as US President Donald Trump has threatened to tighten sanctions against Cuba, with his national security adviser John Bolton last year branding Havana part of a "troika of tyranny" along with leftist Latin American allies Venezuela and Nicaragua.

President Obama had extended the hand of friendship to Cuba while he was in office but the White House is now threatening to activate the long-dormant Helms-Burton Act which extended the 1962 US embargo to apply to foreign companies trading with the Republic in the northern Caribbean.

Raul Castro could meet the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall 

Speaking in 2017, Raúl Castro was highly critical of Mr Trump's proposition of a Mexican wall and restrictive trade policy, calling his plans ‘egotistical’ and ‘irrational’.

The Cuban Democratic Directorate is vehemently opposed to the royal visit and has launched a Twitter hashtag “RoyalShame” to voice its disappointment at what it described as “Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, knowingly playing into a propaganda schedule carefully staged to enhance the image of the criminal Communist Regime.”

Known as the Directorio, the non-profit organisation, established in 1990 to achieve “freedom and justice for Cuba” tweeted yesterday (Sun): “For the Royal Monarchy to lend its name to such a spectacle of total disregard for crimes against humanity taking place for decades by their host regime is a #RoyalShame.”

In a letter addressed to the foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt in February, Andrew Lewer, said it would be “quite wrong to bestow our blessing on this brutality by carrying on with this royal visit”.

His Conservative colleague Julian Lewis, chairman of the defence committee, said: “How can it be right to send senior royals to suck up to the Cuban communists on whom Maduro depends?”

Clarence House said the royal visit was to “highlight the growing bilateral relationship with the UK and showcase some of the cultural links between the two countries”. It comes as Britain seeks alternative trading partners to the EU post Brexit.

A royal spokesman added: “Their Royal Highnesses are looking forward to experiencing the culture and meeting the people of Cuba.”