Out of "Fear of the US" Several Spanish Businesspeople do Not Want to Accompany King Felipe VI to Cuba

King Felipe VI during a meeting with Bruno Rodríguez in 2017, when the visit of the Spanish head of state to Cuba was agreed for the first time under the Government of Rajoy. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 30 October 2019 — “It is normal for them to be afraid of the United States,” Spain’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said in reply to a question from the online media OKdiario about the decision of some Spanish businesspeople not to accompany the Spanish Royals on their visit to Cuba.

“They will know what they are doing,” added the minister about those executives who have interests in the US and fear reprisals from the Trump Administration. However, Borrell recalled that there are also many others who have business in Cuba.

In recent weeks, not many days have gone by without new sanctions or measures taken by the White House that affect the Cuban government. Among the latter, the ban on flying to any of the cities the Island other than Havana, the ban on sale of items to Cuba containing 10% of US components and the limitations on remittances.

King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia will visit the Island between November 11 and 14 according to sources from the Zarzuela Palace cited by the Spanish press, although the dates have not been made official and the agenda is not yet public, a common occurrence when there are still more than ten days before the visit but that, in this case, and according to OKdiario, may be reinforced by the lack of confirmation of some of the guests.

According to the Government, there is nothing unusual in the procedures around the trip and the those who will accompany the Royals are being selected by the Ministry and the Spanish Embassy in Havana. It is unknown, OKdiario says, if the Secretary of State for Commerce, Xiana Méndez, will come, even though she has insisted on going.

The reluctance of businesspeople with businesses on both sides of the Florida Strait contrasts with the joy expressed by those who are established on the Island. The president of the association that brings together almost 300 Spanish companies in Cuba, Xulio Fontecha, celebrated the news of a Royal trip that they have been waiting many years for and believe that it is a boost at a time when they face several problems, such as the debt payment defaults of the Government of Havana or the consequences of the activation of Title III of the Helms-Burton law.

Cuba is the only Latin American country that has never had an official visit from the Spanish head of state despite the fact that the current King’s father, Juan Carlos, expressed his desire on several occasions and was in Havana during the Latin American Summit of 1999.

The visit of Barack Obama to the Island opened the ban on many Western heads of state following his path, at which time the Government of Mariano Rajoy began planning the date of the arrival of Felipe VI to Havana. However, the instability of Spanish politics , which in the last four years has had four general elections, has put the long-awaited moment on hold.

Fidel Castro received the previous Spanish royals, Juan Carlos and Sofía, in 1999. (EFE / Archive)

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, in office since April, decided that the moment could not wait any longer and that the Royals should be in Cuba coinciding with the 500th Anniversary of Havana, founded by the Spanish Crown. Although, according to the ABC newspaper, to avoid the awkward situation that would result if their visit coincided with that of Nicolás Maduro and Daniel Ortega, King Felipe and Queen Letizia will leave on the 14th and will miss the great festivities planned for the 16th which the allies of Latin American socialism will attend.

Despite this precaution, the visit has not escaped a certain controversy. The Vox Party has announced its intention to present an initiative to request the cancellation of the trip. However, with the chambers dissolved (there will general elections on November 10), the body that the party can appeal to, the Permanent Deputation, is not empowered to handle this type of issue.

Santiago Abascal, leader of the far right party, considers that the trip is crazy and that the Government is trying to delegitimize the monarchy. His deputy secretary of International Relations, Iván Espinosa de los Monteros, said that Cuba remains “a Marxist dictatorship that oppresses its people, maintains political prisoners, prevents any hint of openness and exerts a terrible influence in the area.”

“Spain has a historical responsibility in Latin America. We cannot contribute to the bleaching or normalization of the Cuban regime,” he insisted.

However, the general secretary of the Vox Party, Javier Ortega Smith, said a week before the Royal’s trip that it does not support the Plaza of the Revolution. “For Cubans, the fact that His Majesty the King goes there is not going to be interpreted as supporting a criminal dictatorship, the Castro dictatorship, but as a support of solidarity and affection for so many Cubans who are living in ruin and under oppression for decades,” he said, before adding that King Felipe VI “will do everything in his power, although it will not be all that he would probably like, nor what all Spaniards would like.”

Faced with this opinion, former President of the Government Felipe González, in Miami this Tuesday to attend the IV Presidential Dialogue of the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (IDEA), said in an interview with the Diario Las Américas that there is no need to feel nervous about the trip. “There is a historical relationship, beyond any substantive discrepancies, which there have been, and many,” he also said there has been “a continuing state policy.”

Several organizations of the Cuban opposition have rejected the visit and the Cuba Alliance for Inclusion and the Cuban Women’s Network have asked the Queen, who was a journalist and news presenter before her commitment to the then Prince of Asturias, to support their cause.

“Your Majesty, as a trained journalist, you know deeply the importance of freedom of expression and opinion, without it the debate of ideas that enriches and promotes the progress of peoples is not possible. We are counting on your support and solidarity, and we respectfully request you may intercede for the eradication of political violence against women in Cuba,” they requested in a letter addressed to the wife of the head of state.


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