Duke and Duchess are forced to scrap their first visit on Caribbean trip

William and Kate last night canceled the first big engagement of their Caribbean tour in an extraordinary row over indigenous rights.

The royal couple had been due to begin their visit to Belize with a trip to a sustainable cocoa farm tomorrow.

But the charm offensive got off to a rocky start yesterday when villagers in Indian Creek staged a protest, describing the visit as ‘colonialism’ and a ‘slap in the face’.

They are said to be particularly outraged that William and Kate’s helicopter was given permission to land on their football field without consultation.

William and Kate last night canceled the first big engagement of their Caribbean tour in an extraordinary row over indigenous rights

The protest was part of a long-running row over communal land rights. Last night Kensington Palace announced that the village visit was scrapped.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge leave the UK later today to fly to Belize and will enjoy an official welcome at the airport before meeting the prime minister. Their trip – in celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee – will begin in earnest tomorrow and they had been due to travel to Indian Creek, home to fewer than 1,000 people.

The couple planned to visit the Akte’iL Ha cacao farm in the foothills of the Maya mountains, a prime example of sustainable farming. But the village of Indian Creek has been in open conflict with Flora and Fauna International, a charity which owns an adjoining, contested property. William has been FFI’s patron since 2020, the latest in a line of royals stretching back to George VI.

But the charm offensive got off to a rocky start yesterday when villagers in Indian Creek (pictured) staged a protest, describing the visit as 'colonialism' and a 'slap in the face'

But the charm offensive got off to a rocky start yesterday when villagers in Indian Creek (pictured) staged a protest, describing the visit as ‘colonialism’ and a ‘slap in the face’

They are said to be particularly outraged that William and Kate's helicopter was given permission to land on their football field without consultation.  Pictured: Villagers protest in Belize

They are said to be particularly outraged that William and Kate’s helicopter was given permission to land on their football field without consultation. Pictured: Villagers protest in Belize

Villagers are involved in a highly emotional fight against the state and FFI, which works to protect ecosystems worldwide, over the rights to lands lost in the colonial era.

In particular they are angry about 12,000 acres of land that agents working for FFI have told them is ‘private property’ and not for communal use.

The indigenous Q’eqchi Maya people say they were not consulted about William and Kate’s visit and this week held a community meeting that was followed by yesterday’s protest.

Sebastian Shol, chairman of Indian Creek village, said: ‘We don’t want them to land on our land, that’s the message that we want to send. They could land anywhere but not on our land.’

Villagers are involved in a highly emotional fight against the state and FFI, which works to protect ecosystems worldwide, over the rights to lands lost in the colonial era.  Pictured: Protests in Belize

Villagers are involved in a highly emotional fight against the state and FFI, which works to protect ecosystems worldwide, over the rights to lands lost in the colonial era. Pictured: Protests in Belize

Village youth leader Dionisio Shol said the way the visit had been handled raised the issue of ‘colonialism’.

He said: ‘For us it really hits right at home because of the treatment. The organizer said we had to let them use the football field and that people were coming to our village and it had to look good.

‘But they didn’t want to divulge who. Eventually somebody said it was Prince William coming to our village. That’s where the first issue arose. These are high-profile people, we respect them, but they also have to be giving respect to the community leaders. Giving community leaders commands did not sit well with the community.’

The indigenous Q'eqchi Maya people say they were not consulted about William and Kate's visit and this week held a community meeting that was followed by yesterday's protest

The indigenous Q’eqchi Maya people say they were not consulted about William and Kate’s visit and this week held a community meeting that was followed by yesterday’s protest

The police refused to allow them to protest during the planned visit tomorrow because of security concerns, so villagers staged a demonstration yesterday carrying banners reading ‘Prince William leave our land’ and ‘Colonial legacy of theft continues with Prince and FFI’.

Dionisio said that although their issue was with the charity, they believed William had to take responsibility as his patron.

There was no comment from Kensington Palace but aides confirmed that the visit had now been scrapped and the couple would make alternative arrangements.

The police refused to allow them to protest during the planned visit tomorrow because of security concerns, so villagers staged a demonstration yesterday carrying banners reading 'Prince William leave our land' and 'Colonial legacy of theft continues with Prince and FFI'

The police refused to allow them to protest during the planned visit tomorrow because of security concerns, so villagers staged a demonstration yesterday carrying banners reading ‘Prince William leave our land’ and ‘Colonial legacy of theft continues with Prince and FFI’

It is understood that the visit, including the landing of the helicopter, was being organized by local officials. FFI is said to have bought the land at the disputed site, Boden Creek, in December last year to protect it, fighting off interest from bidders who wanted to use it for agriculture.

Sources said the ‘ecological integrity’ of Boden Creek was under threat and FFI secured the land for the benefits of conservation, local communities and as a national asset for Belize as a whole.

A spokesman said: ‘FFI will conserve and protect the extraordinary wildlife of Boden Creek, while supporting the livelihoods and traditional rights of local people.

‘Nature protection has to go hand in hand with people’s right to secure their livelihoods and to preserve their traditional and human rights.’

It is understood that the visit, including the landing of the helicopter, was being organized by local officials.  Pictured: The community meeting in Belize

It is understood that the visit, including the landing of the helicopter, was being organized by local officials. Pictured: The community meeting in Belize

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