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Prince William arrives to protests in a Jamaica that could soon become a republic

Prince William (right) and wife Kate Middleton in England this month.

An open letter from scores of Jamaican civic leaders calls on the heir to Britain's throne to "atone" for centuries of colonial enslavement in the Caribbean.

When Britain’s Prince William arrived in Jamaica Tuesday, he was welcomed in large part by protest — and an open letter demanding an apology and reparations for a legacy of colonialism and enslavement.

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William and his wife Kate Middleton, known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, are on a Caribbean tour as part of the 70th anniversary of Elizabeth II’s reign as queen of Britain — and as the head of state of British Commonwealth countries like Jamaica.

But the biggest news greeting the royal couple in Jamaica was an angry open letter from a hundred political, business, clerical and cultural leaders. It calls on the Prince to apologize for Britain’s centuries of enslavement of Africans in Jamaica and the Caribbean — and demands reparations for that history.

"During her 70 years on the throne," the letter says, "your grandmother has done nothing to redress and atone for the suffering of our ancestors during the entire period of British trafficking of Africans, enslavement, indentureship and colonization."

The letter is part of a larger protest that included a demonstration at the British High Commission in Jamaica’s capital, Kingston.

It’s also a reflection of an accelerating movement in Jamaica to drop the British monarch as its head of state and become a republic. Jamaica is celebrating 60 years of independence from Britain this year — and it recently created a new ministry that’s likely to map out a plan for that transition. Polls indicate most Jamaicans, including Prime Minister Andrew Holness, support breaking with the Queen. A new referendum on the issue could be held this year.

Last November, Barbados became the fourth British Commonwealth country in the Caribbean to become a republic.

William and Kate also faced protest during the first leg of their Caribbean tour in Belize over the weekend. They had to cancel a visit to a Maya village there after anti-colonialist demonstrations. The couple will visit the Bahamas later this week to finish the tour.

Tim Padgett is the Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.