Tsai welcomes victory of pro-Taipei candidate in Paraguay’s presidential election

Taiwan has diplomatic ties with only 13 countries as China tries to isolate island
By Chen Meihua for RFA Mandarin and Fong Tak Ho for RFA Cantonese
Tsai welcomes victory of pro-Taipei candidate in Paraguay’s presidential election Paraguayan presidential candidate Santiago Pena, center of ruling Colorado Party gestures next to his wife Leticia Ocampos at the party headquarters as he and his running mate Pedro Alliana won Paraguay's presidential race in Asuncion, Paraguay April 30, 2023.
Credit: Agustin Marcarian/Reuters

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Monday called for "furthering" friendship with Paraguay after Santiago Pena, a candidate who favors continuing ties with Taiwan rather than Beijing, declared victory in his country's presidential elections.

"Congratulations to @SantiPenap on his landslide election victory, making him the next president of Paraguay," Tsai said via her Twitter account.

"I look forward to furthering our countries’ long standing relationship & to seeing the government & people of #Paraguay prosper under your leadership," she tweeted.

Pena, a former finance minister who has pledged not to break with six decades of diplomatic relations with Taiwan, garnered 43% of the vote, compared with the 27% won by his center-left opponent Efrain Alegre, who had backed switching diplomatic recognition to Beijing.

Taiwan now has formal relations with only 13 countries, including Belize, Nauru and the Vatican, after Kiribati and the Solomon Islands broke off diplomatic ties with Taipei in 2021. 

Beijing has been stepping up its campaign to isolate Taiwan diplomatically since President Tsai Ing-wen, whose growing ties with U.S. officials has prompted military saber-rattling from China, was elected in 2016.

Honduras announced it would switch ties last month as Tsai began a trip to Latin America that ended with a meeting with the U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in Los Angeles.

Pena's victory came amid fears that Paraguay would switch allegiance to Beijing.

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, right, uses binoculars to watch a drill as Paraguay President Mario Abdo Benitez, left looks on during a military drill in Taoyuan on October 9, 2018. Credit: Sam Yeh/AFP

Taiwan's foreign ministry said the island, which split with the mainland amid civil war in 1949 and has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, is "resolved to further deepen and cement its relations with Paraguay," the island's Central News Agency reported.

"Based on the shared values of democracy, freedom and traditional ties between the two sides, Taipei will continue to strengthen bilateral cooperation and exchanges with the new Paraguayan government to create maximum benefits for the people of the two countries," it quoted the foreign ministry as saying.

Important ally

Ambassador to Paraguay Jose Han immediately relayed the congratulatory messages of President Tsai Ing-wen and Vice President Lai Ching-te to Pena, shortly after the candidate of Paraguay's ruling Colorado Party was declared the country's new president-elect in Sunday's presidential race, the agency said.

Taiwan's presidential spokesperson Olivia Lin said Paraguay remains an important ally of Taiwan's in Latin America, with ongoing cooperation and exchanges in the areas of women's empowerment, agriculture and fisheries, public health and medicine, education, and cultural affairs. 

Beijing insists that its diplomatic partners accept its claim on Taiwan, which it calls the "one China" policy, effectively forcing them to cut ties with the democratic island.

But Taiwan's 23 million people have repeatedly shown through public opinion polls that they have no wish to give up their sovereignty or democratic way of life to be ruled by the Chinese Communist Party.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Malcolm Foster.


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