Taipei could lose its last diplomatic ally in South America, with most polls showing a narrow lead for Paraguay’s opposition candidate Efrain Alegre in this month’s presidential elections.
Alegre, leader of the Authentic Radical Liberal Party, pledged in January that he would forge relations with Beijing if he wins the presidency on April 30. His main opponent, the ruling Colorado Party’s Santiago Peña, intends to maintain the long-held status quo.
In Alegre’s view, ties with Taipei bring little benefit, while barring Paraguayan soy and beef exports from the Chinese mainland. “Paraguay must have relations with China,” he said in an interview with Reuters in January.
While Alegre and Peña are locked in a neck-and-neck race, many analysts believe the pro-Beijing candidate stands a good chance, especially with the ruling party mired in corruption allegations.
Honduras Severs Diplomatic Ties With Taiwan, Establishes Them With China
Beijing views Taiwan as a breakaway province with no right to build official ties with other governments. Most countries do not recognise the island as an independent state but Paraguay, which established diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1957, is one of 13 that maintains ties with Taipei.
In March, Honduras became the latest to switch recognition to Beijing, which has notched up nine such diplomatic victories since Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016, raising worries for Taiwan’s ruling dispensation. At the same time, the US is increasingly on the alert to China’s expanding geopolitical footprint in Latin America.
Responding to Alegre’s January statement, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said standing up for the one-China principle was “the right thing to do.”
“We believe relevant countries will eventually recognise this trend and make the right decision that is consistent with where the trend is heading,” he said.
Latin America specialist Tom Long from the University of Warwick’s department of politics and international studies, said Taipei’s relationship had been mostly with figures associated with the Colorado Party’s seven decades in office.
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“Opposition parties have received fewer benefits [from Taiwan], whether material or in terms of prestige,” said Long, who attributed multiple reasons to Alegre’s proposal to reassess Paraguay’s relations with Taipei.
Many important Paraguayan economic sectors–especially agricultural exports–feel they are “missing out on full access to the largest market for their goods,” he said.
There are hopes that massive Chinese investment could restart Paraguay’s economy, which is “still struggling from the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, higher interest rates, and inflation.”
“Many big economic players want markets and investments, and they assume that China’s tremendous size will provide both,” said Long.
(South China Morning Post) by Xinlu Liang
scorinocohttps://orinocotribune.com/author/sahelicot92/May 27, 2023
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