A British royal couple begins a tour of the Caribbean, followed by protests in Belize

BELIZE CITY, March 19 (Reuters) – British Prince William and his wife Kate arrived in Belize on Saturday for a week-long tour of the Caribbean, which was marred by a local protest before it began amid of the British Empire’s colonial ties with the region.

The arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge coincides with the celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s 70th birthday on the throne and takes place almost four months after Barbados voted to become a republic, severing ties with the monarchy but remaining part of it. of the British-led Commonwealth. Nations.

Three miniature cannons saluted the couple as their plane landed in Belize City before a military band sang the national anthems of Belize and Britain at a welcoming ceremony that kept the media at bay.

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William inspected an honor guard while the band sang the local Creole song “Ding Ding Wala,” and then left with his wife to meet with Prime Minister John Briceno.

The couple will stay in Belize, former British Honduras, until Tuesday morning. On the eve of their departure, a planned event on Sunday was abandoned when dozens of villagers staged a protest.

Residents of Indian Creek, an indigenous Mayan village in southern Belize, said they were upset that the royal couple’s helicopter had been given permission to land on a local football field without prior consultation. Read more

The village is in a land dispute with Fauna & Flora International (FFI), a conservation group supported by the royal family, arousing dissatisfaction with the colonial settlements of the colonial era, still contested by indigenous groups.

Instead, a visit to another site is planned, the Belizean government said. In a statement, Kensington Palace confirmed that the program will be changed due to “sensitive issues” involving the Indian Creek community.

In a statement, the FFI said it had purchased land in nearby Boden Creek from private owners in December 2021 and would preserve and protect the area’s wildlife while supporting the livelihoods and traditional rights of the local people.

Without directly addressing the dispute, the FFI said it had bought the land for the benefit of the ecological integrity of the area, the resident communities and Belize as a whole and pledged to maintain an “open and continuous dialogue” with the local community.

After Belize, the Duke and Duchess will visit Jamaica and the Bahamas. Meetings and a variety of events are scheduled with politicians and a number of civic leaders.

Dickie Arbiter, Queen Elizabeth’s press secretary from 1988 to 2000, described the tour as a benevolent visit that should give a temporary boost to the family’s popularity.

Today, many people in the former colonies see the monarchy as an anachronism that should be let go, he said. But few things were expected to change as long as Elizabeth remained on the throne.

“The royal family is pragmatic,” he said. “He knows he can’t look at these countries as states forever and for a day.”

POPULAR OPINION

Debates over colonial oppression, including possible reparations for Jamaican slave descendants, could push several countries to imitate the recent move by Barbados. Read more

Carolyn Cooper, a professor emeritus at the University of the West Indies, said the royal couple’s visit was unlikely to discourage Jamaica from opting for republican status.

“I think there is a popular opinion against the monarchy,” she said.

Some in Belize, which gained independence from Britain only in 1981, are warmly talking about staying in the pillar.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for them to appreciate the country’s multiculturalism, natural attractions and enjoy our culinary practices,” said Joseline Ramirez, manager of Cayo District in western Belize.

Others are less enthusiastic.

Alan Mckoy, a Belize City mechanic, said he “couldn’t care less” about the royal family.

“They are no better than any of us,” he said.

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Report by Jose Sanchez in Belize City Additional reporting by Dave Graham, Kate Chappell and Cassandra Garrison Editing by David Alire Garcia, Edmund Klamann, Frances Kerry, Diane Craft and Jonathan Oatis

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