Outrage as Prince Harry is forced to take part in minute's silence for Fidel Castro

Prince Harry takes part in a 'marked silence' to mark the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Photo / Getty
Prince Harry takes part in a 'marked silence' to mark the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Photo / Getty

Prince Harry was left in an awkward position when he was asked to take part in a moment's silence after the death of Fidel Castro - despite some describing the Cuban leader as a "murderous dictator".

The silence was observed when the prince attended a drinks reception on the island of St Vincent, during his Caribbean tour.

He had been at the reception as the guest of honour to present Duke of Edinburgh awards to young people.

But the country's governor general Sir Frederick Ballantyne, who was hosting the event, asked his guests to mark the death of the international figure.

Ralph Gonsalves, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines' Prime Minister, described Castro as a "good friend of the island".

He went on to tell of how the Cuban leader had invested in the country, which has been a trading partner for decades.

And Harry was faced with no choice but to listen to the tributes to the controversial political figure and join in the silence in honour of the man who led Cuba for more than half a decade.

Flowers placed by members of Mexico's communist party lay on an image of late Cuban President Fidel Castro, outside the Cuban embassy in Mexico City. Photo / AP
Flowers placed by members of Mexico's communist party lay on an image of late Cuban President Fidel Castro, outside the Cuban embassy in Mexico City. Photo / AP

The 32-year-old stared straight ahead expressionless during the silence which lasted around 20 seconds.

So far, neither the Queen nor the Prime Minister Theresa May has officially made any statements about the passing of the Cuban leader, who some regard as a "revolutionary" while others see him as a communist dictator.

Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke told MailOnline that forcing Prince Harry to join the minute's silence was "very unfair" and the government should make clear it was unacceptable.

"Castro was a murderous dictator. He is dead, and good riddance," Shelbrooke said.

"This endless stream of people excusing him, especially Labour MPs like Jeremy Corbyn, is ridiculous.

"It is very unfair to put pressure on members of the Royal Family to take part in this kind of tribute.

"Prince Harry shouldn't be put in this position. I think it would be desirable, through the usual diplomatic channels, to make sure this kind of thing does not happen again where Royals are put in this situation."

While fellow Conservative MP Michael Fabricant said Prince Harry had conducted himself well after being put in an "awkward" situation.

"I am no fan of Fidel Castro, who was more of a tyrant than an enlightened leader," Fabricant said.

"But I am a fan of Prince Harry. It must have been an awkward moment for him but hey, what else could he do?"

Prince Harry receives a painting of himself from local artist Calvert Jones. Photo / Getty
Prince Harry receives a painting of himself from local artist Calvert Jones. Photo / Getty

The minute's silence came at the event, where Harry also met with local Girl Guides and was also presented with an oil painting of himself.

The prince seemed thrilled to receive the colourful painting, which was presented to him by local artist Calvert Jones.

Meanwhile the group of girl guides were beaming as they chatted with Harry and he posed for a picture with them.

The death of Castro was announced early yesterday and nine days of national mourning have been declared in Cuba.

This prompted Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to pay his tributes by saying that for "all his flaws", Castro would be remembered as a "champion of social justice".

But his statement prompted widespread outcry as critics highlighted the Castro regime's human rights abuses and its lack of democratic accountability.

However, today shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry has said it is "quite difficult" to get past allegations of brutality made against Castro.

Thornberry told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that Corbyn had "tried to put forward both sides".

She said: "I think that Castro was a hugely divisive figure and I think that it's quite difficult to get beyond the human rights abuses.

"But my own experience, I went to Cuba in the early 1990s when there was great economic difficulties in that country and I found a country that was egalitarian with a fantastic health service, I had my baby with me, we had to go off and see the doctor and we were really struck by it."

She continued: "It came at a price but it was, in my view, a brave island that stood against a regime that for 50 years would not trade with it and would not let other countries trade with it too.

"Not only did they stand firm and strong they also exported their values across South America and into Africa, producing doctors and nurses and teachers."

She also said she recognised the Castro regime had a dark side.

"I acknowledge that but all I am saying is that from my experience, my experience was visiting a country that was at the time they didn't have enough petrol to be able to drive cars, they were going around on bicycles on the May Day parade," she said.

"But nevertheless there were not people starving and they still had an excellent health and education service.

"I'm not saying any more than that. But it was an enormous achievement for a little Caribbean island."

- Daily Mail

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