Spanish Royal Palace Upset over Government Forcing King to Visit Cuba

King Felipe VI (right) does not understand how Spain’s caretaker government under Pedro Sanchez (left) could authorize a visit to the island, and only a few days after the November 10 elections. (Europa Press)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jorge Sainz, October 21, 2019 — The royal palace is very upset with Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez for committing King Felipe VI to a visit of Cuba in mid-November.

Irritation at Zarzuela Palace is palpable, as Vozpópuli has learned. The monarch does not understand how the caretaker government could authorize a visit of such importance, especially when scheduled to take place only a few days after the November 10 elections.

On top of that, the king’s visit to Havana will coincide those of other leaders, including Russian president Vladimir Putin, Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro and Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega. And the crown is not too enthusiastic about some of these attendees.

 Sanchez’s decision

Felipe VI has been trying to get out of this trip for months. And the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has had its own doubts, realizing this would not be the best time. But according to sources within the executive, Prime Minister Sanchez made his decision final.

The foreign affairs minister, Josep Borrell, committed to the visit during a quick trip to Havana this week. The palace is doing a tricky balancing act in an effort to avoid, for example, having photos taken of the king standing next to Maduro.

The reluctance of the palace, which has pushed back as much as it could, is shared by Spanish diplomats.

The impetus for the king’s visit to Cuba is the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the founding of Havana, to be celebrated in mid-November. The idea is that Felipe VI will visit the island “within the framework of that commemoration,” not to participate in the commemorative celebration itself, which will be attended by leaders such as Putin and Maduro.

The palace wants to frame the trip in strictly cultural terms. The king will focus on Spain’s legacy in its former colony while trying to avoid politics altogether. As well as an unwanted photo.

The reluctance of the palace, which has pushed back as much as it could, is shared by Spain’s diplomatic corps. The last caretaker government, under Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, opted to shelve the head-of-state’s international agenda. It postponed state visits, such as the one the king and queen were scheduled to make to the United Kingdom.

Retaliation by Trump

According to sources, one of the risks is that Sanchez will have been voted out of office after the November 10 elections. Current opinion polls suggest such a scenario is unlikely. But if it does happen, the new government — one with a different agenda and international priorities — would be forced to respect this decision.

Nevertheless, Sanchez has made up his mind, as he has done with other exceptional measures such as those regarding regional funding. The king will accompany the caretaker government to Cuba and will also visit South Korea in the days following, though the latter trip will produce no political controversy whatsoever.

Among other problems are the possible consequences facing some businesses. The American president, Donald Trump, has put tremendous pressure not only on Cuba but also on countries with interests on the island in the form of tariffs and sanctions.

According to sources, a gathering of world leaders hated by Trump and meeting that week in Havana could mean a setback for Spain if the U.S. retaliates economically.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on the Spanish website Vozpópuli and is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.


The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by now becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.