By Jose Sanchez
BELIZE CITY (Reuters) – Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate arrived in Belize on Saturday for a week-long Caribbean tour that was marred by local protest before it even started amid growing investigations into Britain’s colonial ties. rich with the region.
The arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge coincides with the celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s 70th year on the throne, and comes nearly four months after Barbados voted to become a republic, severing ties with the monarchy. but remained part of the British-led Commonwealth of Lands.
The Queen’s grandson and his wife spend their first three days in Belize, former British Honduras. But on the eve of their departure, an event scheduled for Sunday was canceled when several dozen villagers protested.
Residents of Indian Creek, an indigenous Mayan village in southern Belize, told Reuters they were angry that the royal couple’s helicopter had been allowed to land on a local soccer field without prior consultation.
The village is embroiled in a land dispute with Fauna & Flora International (FFI), a conservation organization supported by the royal family, stirring discontent over colonial-era territorial settlements that are still disputed by indigenous groups.
A visit to another site is planned instead, the Belize government said. In a statement, Kensington Palace confirmed that the schedule would be changed due to “sensitive issues” involving the Indian Creek community, and said more details would be provided in due course.
In a statement, FFI said it had purchased land in nearby Boden Creek from private owners in December 2021 and that it would conserve and protect the wildlife in the area while supporting the livelihoods and traditional rights of the local people.
Without addressing the dispute directly, FFI said it purchased the land to benefit the ecological integrity of the area, its residents and Belize as a whole, and pledged to maintain an “open and ongoing dialogue” with the local community. .
After Belize, the Duke and Duchess will move to Jamaica and the Bahamas. Meetings and a variety of events are planned with politicians and a range of civic leaders.
Dickie Arbiter, Queen Elizabeth’s press secretary from 1988 to 2000, described the tour as a goodwill visit that should provide at least a temporary boost to the family’s popularity.
Today, many people see the monarchy as an anachronism that needs to be let go, he said. But he expected little to change as long as Elizabeth remained on the throne.
“The royal family is pragmatic,” he said. “It knows it can’t see these countries as empire states forever and one day.”
Debates about colonial-era oppression, including possible reparations for the descendants of slaves in Jamaica, could prompt more countries to follow Barbados’ recent move.
Carolyn Cooper, professor emeritus at the University of the West Indies, said the visit by the royal couple is unlikely to discourage Jamaica from opting for republican status.
“I think there is a tidal wave of popular opinion against the monarchy,” she said.
Some in Belize, which only gained independence from Britain in 1981, speak warmly of staying in the herd.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for them to appreciate the country’s multiculturalism and natural attractions and enjoy our culinary practices,” said Joseline Ramirez, a manager in western Belize’s Cayo district.
But others are less enthusiastic.
Alan Mckoy, a mechanic in Belize City, said he “didn’t care” about the royal family.
“They are no better than any of us,” he said.
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