Paraguay’s president-elect, Santiago Pena, committed to maintaining diplomatic ties with Taiwan on Wednesday, going against a trend of Taipei’s diplomatic allies switching their allegiance to China.
Beijing considers self-governed Taiwan a breakaway province and prohibits its diplomatic partners from having formal ties with Taipei.
Pena, during a meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, affirmed “our commitment as Paraguayans to stand with the people of Taiwan for the next five years.”
Paraguay is one of only 13 countries in the world – and the last remaining in South America – that recognize Taiwan as a country and do not have diplomatic relations with China.
Taiwan’s remaining diplomatic allies are generally smaller countries in Central America, the Caribbean and South Pacific, along with Eswatini in southern Africa and Vatican City.
China has intensified its campaign to win over Taiwan’s diplomatic allies since independence-leaning Tsai took office in 2016, in part by offering infrastructure investments to developing countries. It recently managed to sway Honduras, which broke ties with Taipei and opened an embassy in Beijing.
Pena, who is visiting Taiwan with members of his incoming government as well as his wife and daughter through Saturday, said he wanted to boost trade and investment ties with Taiwan.
“I will work for the next few years to convey to the people of Taiwan, mainly to the business community, that investing in Paraguay not only responds to a diplomatic interest but also responds to both nations’ mutual economic benefit,” he said.
Tsai said Taiwan and Paraguay “helped each other to overcome the challenge of the epidemic.”
“In the face of the expansion of authoritarianism, we expect Taiwan and Paraguay to stand together on the frontline of free democracy and contribute to global stability and development,” she said.
Pena had promised to maintain ties with Taiwan on the campaign trail, unlike his main competitor, Efrain Alegre, who had advocated switching allegiance to China.
Paraguay’s government has in recent years seen intense lobbying from local beef and soy producers seeking greater access to the Chinese market. The senate in 2020 voted on a failed initiative to reconsider ties with Taipei.
Pena was to also meet with Taiwanese Vice President William Lai, who is the governing Democratic Progressive Party’s candidate in the January presidential election.
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