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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The Caribbean island of Barbados prepared to say goodbye to Queen Elizabeth II as head of state on Monday as it breaks ties to its colonial past and becomes a republic for the first time in history.

Preparations to become a republic began more than two decades ago after the former British colony’s parliament, once nicknamed “Little England”, elected its first president by a two-thirds majority.

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Thousands were expected to watch the late-night program on TV, listen to it on the radio or watch it in person at a popular square, where a worldwide push last year to destroy a famous British god statue- Between the punches was removed. Symbol of oppression.

“It must be a historic moment,” said Denise Edwards, a property manager who was born in Guyana but lives in Barbados.

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His son was born on the island, so Edwards said he plans to take him to see the event of a lifetime: “He’s an eagle.”

The most high-profile guest will be Prince Charles, who arrived on Sunday in Barbados, an island of more than 300,000 people and one of the richest countries in the Caribbean, dependent on tourism, construction and finance. The Prince of Wales was greeted with a 21-gun salute and is scheduled to speak ahead of the presidential election.

Barbados Governor General Sandra Mason, who was appointed by the Queen, is due to be sworn in as president shortly after midnight on Tuesday, marking the 55th year of the island’s independence from Britain.

“The time has come to completely leave our colonial past behind,” Mason said in a speech to parliament last month. He said the move to become a republic should not be seen as a condemnation of anyone and that Barbados looks forward to continuing their relationship. with the British monarch.

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Queen Elizabeth inspects the Guard of Honor upon arrival in Barbados on October 31, 1977.

Prime Minister Mia Motley Fool praised the vote at the time, saying, “We have just chosen a woman among us who is distinctive and passionately Barbadian. … I can imagine that our country is no better at this juncture.” Not a person.”

The Motley Fool said that “responsibilities and rights come with the understanding that there’s no one else to see us… this is our moment.”

Mason, 72, is a lawyer and judge who has also served as ambassador to Venezuela, Colombia, Chile and Brazil.

Barbados has gradually distanced itself from its colonial past after gaining independence from the United Kingdom in November 1966, more than 300 years after English settlers and the island became a wealthy Chinese colony based on the work of hundreds of thousands of African slaves. changed to.

Queen Elizabeth, 95, is Britain's longest-lived and longest-reigning monarch.

In 2005, Barbados removed the London-based Privy Council in favor of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice as the final court of appeal. Then in 2008, it proposed a referendum on the issue of becoming a republic, but it was pushed back indefinitely. Last year, Barbados announced plans to stop being a constitutional monarchy and removed a statue of British Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson from National Heroes Square, the site of celebrations to celebrate the emerging republic’s status.

Barbados did not require permission from the UK to become a republic, although the island would remain a member of the Commonwealth realm, the first nation to do so after the constitutional monarchy was abolished.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement on Monday that Britain and Barbados would remain friends and allies: “Our partnership remains as we tackle shared global challenges together such as the climate crisis and global recovery from the pandemic.”

The transformation into a republic is a phenomenon the Caribbean has not seen since the 1970s, when Guyana, Dominica and Trinidad and Tobago became the Republic.

Edwards, the Guyana-born Bajan property manager, said that his native country faced a difficult time after becoming a republic because a lot of British-owned businesses had fallen out at the time.

“It was a very rough patch for years,” he recalled, adding that he expected the results to be very different for Barbados. “Then it was a different time.”