What will the kings of Spain do in Cuba?

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The kings of Spain Felipe VI and Letizia begin a state visit to Cuba on Tuesday, November 12 with a program that will take them to emblematic places of the capital and Santiago de Cuba, meetings with government officials and no meeting with representatives of the Island opposition.

The monarchs depart from Madrid on Monday 11, a few hours after the results of the general elections of this Sunday in Spain are known, and in Havana they begin their official agenda on Tuesday 12, with a floral offering before the memorial to Jose Marti , in the Revolution Square.

Next, they will meet Miguel Diaz-Canel, with whom they will have a meeting in the State Council building. That same day, the kings will inaugurate an exhibition of the EFE Agency on the graphic history of Spain and Cuba in the Great Theater of Havana Alicia Alonso, where they will attend a ballet performance. That day will close with an official dinner, in which there will be no speeches.

On Wednesday, November 13, the kings will tour the streets of Old Havana and the Museum of Fine Arts, where they will inaugurate the exhibition of a "Self-Portrait" of Francisco de Goya, temporarily ceded by the Prado Museum. As usual for most of the State visits that arrive in Havana, by the hand of the historian Eusebio Leal they will visit the most emblematic places of the city.

Also that day they will meet with the Spanish community resident on the Island and the king will meet Spanish businessmen with interests in Cuba.

Likewise, Felipe VI and Letizia will hold a private audience with representatives of the Cuban civil society, among which should be the writer Leonardo Padura, the actor Jorge Perugorria, independent journalists, and private entrepreneurs, in such a format that he held at the end of 2018 the acting Spanish president Pedro Sanchez during his visit to Havana.

The kings will dedicate the last day of their trip, on Thursday, November 14, to tour Santiago de Cuba, where they will visit Castillo del Morro to remember the more than 300 crew members killed in the sinking of Admiral Cervera's fleet, destroyed by battleships of the United States, and the hill of San Juan, where 600 Spanish soldiers perished in the last land battle of the war in Cuba, which marked the end of the Spanish empire.

Although the visit is part of the week of official celebrations for the 500 years of Havana, the monarchs will not be present at the official act of November 16, which should be attended by close allies of Havana, such as Vladimir Putin, Nicolas Maduro and Daniel Ortega.

Spanish diplomatic sources insisted that the visit does not constitute a gesture of support for the Cuban regime, but the overcoming of an anomaly: the fact that Cuba was the only Latin American country that had not visited a king of Spain until now; while the leaders of France, Italy or Portugal have done so, former US President Barack Obama and even two Popes.

The Spanish ambassador in Cuba, Juan Fernandez Trigo, told the EFE agency that this will be "a state trip that we want to have a cultural content (…). Our idea is not to come to do politics, because the king does not politics in Spain. "

The visit of Felipe VI and Letizia to Cuba has been strongly criticized both within Spain and in Cuba and his exile.

A campaign on the platform Change.org he asks the monarchs not to visit Cuba until the Island "is not a free and democratic country, or failing that, they respect our tortuous road to freedom".

"Their Majesties come to embrace the tradition of sustained violations of the dictatorship, with their presence they support forced disappearances, political prison, gender abuse, and all contemporary expressions of slavery," affirms the request, filed from the Island by independent journalist Iliana Hernandez.

The visit has also been the subject of debate among Spanish politicians. Albert Rivera (Citizens), Pablo Casado (Popular Party) and Pedro Abascal (VOX) asked Pedro Sanchez, acting president for the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), not to send the kings to Cuba, arguing that we must Go against the dictators.

For its part, the US Government sees in the visit of the kings of Spain to Cuba a loophole so that the Cuban regime continues to legitimize in full wave of repression against the opposition of the Island.

Amnesty International (AI) last week sent a letter to Felipe VI so that during his visit he was interested in the situation of Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), who denounced Thursday in a brief meeting with his family, after 38 days in detention and 35 incommunicado, that he is being tortured in Aguadores prison, in Santiago de Cuba, and that his life "is in danger."



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