Rabat - King Mohammed VI’s vacation in Cuba has not ceased to raise controversy since the news first broke out this last weekend. After a busy year marked with many significant achievements, King Mohammed VI’s rightfully due vacation is finally here, although in quite the unusual place.
Rabat – King Mohammed VI’s vacation in Cuba has not ceased to raise controversy since the news first broke out this last weekend. After a busy year marked with many significant achievements, King Mohammed VI’s rightfully due vacation is finally here, although in quite the unusual place.
The King’s Boeing arrived in Cuba on Saturday in Cayo Santa Maria, in the archipelago of Jardines Del Rey, a paradise island that covers more than 21 square kilometers.
The Monarch, accompanied by the royal family and their entourage, are staying in Saratoga Hotel, a luxurious hotel located in the old city. Numerous security measures were taken in the area where the hotel is located and traffic was suspended in the street in front of the hotel.
The news didn’t fail to raise many eyebrows since the Kingdom has no diplomatic relations with Cuba since the 1980s. The relationship between the two countries was far from being cordial since the late Fidel Castro was a big supporter of the Polisario.
Tension between the two countries goes back to the 1960s, when Cubans chose to side with Algeria on the Sahara issue, sending their military troops to Alger during its conflict with Morocco during what would later become known as the “Sand War.”
Since the seventies, Cuba has been one of the Polisario’s fiercest defenders in Latin America. It is no surprise, therefore, that King Mohammed VI’s sudden visit to the communist country is sparking the Polisario’s fears.
According to Spanish website, El Confidencial, merely days after the King’s arrival to the country, Cuba sent its ambassador, Raul Navas Barzaga, to Tindouf on the first plane they could find. Barzaga met with Brahim Ghali, the Polisario’s Chef, to quiet down the separatist front’s concerns.
While the royal visit has nothing to do with politics, the Moroccan flag flying high over the Saratoga Hotel didn’t fail to threaten the Polisario Front.
Although the King’s visit to Cuba is not an official one, and doesn’t carry any political agenda, it is still a loud statement in its own right. This is not the first time King Mohammed VI has visited countries that have opposing views on the territorial integrity of the Kingdom.
Just during his African tour, the King was a guest of honor in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Zambia and other countries known for their support of the Polisario. Cuba is the only Latin American country that has been involved in the Sahara’s file with arms and blood. If this shows one thing, it shows that ideologies no longer have a place when it comes to politics, only pragmatism does. If so, the possibilities can be endless.
After Obama’s historic visit to Cuba last year, it is only logical that Morocco would follow in the same progressive steps since the Kingdom has been a solid ally of the U.S. With Morocco’s return to the African Union and the plethora of economic and diplomatic agreements signed with many African countries, maybe it is time for Morocco to conquer the other side of the globe.
While the Sahara conflict is too much of serious and heavy issue to be solved by mere holiday visits, this visit does hold a very strong symbolic message. It holds the promise of a new beginning; that of conversation, open debate and negotiation.
It is very unlikely that Morocco will immediately put the Sahara affair on the table. Following King Mohammed VI’s ingenious strategic diplomacy in the African continent, it is more logical to believe that Morocco will bet on economic partnership with one of Latin America’s very particular countries.
This sudden visit may well just be the start of many on the South American continent, where the Kingdom holds strong relationships with countries such as Haiti, which Morocco helped significantly during the destructive 2010 earthquake.
Colombia and Brazil are just a few of the many countries that maintain economic relations with the Kingdom. Pursuing these connections might open the Latin American economic market to Africa through its largest gate, Morocco.
If Morocco’s crushing win in Africa shows one thing, it is that the Kingdom has mastered one of politics’ most dangerous tools, economy. And King Mohammed VI has proven on numerous times, that he knows how to wield that sword perfectly. The Polisario’s concerns may just turn out to be very justified.