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December 12, 2021
China and the Americas: ‘A widening sphere of influence’
December 12, 2021

Nicaragua’s shift to People’s Republic of China sends shockwaves through Americas

Posted: Sunday, December 12, 2021. 8:15 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: China and Nicaragua re-established diplomatic ties on Friday after the Central American country broke relations with Chinese-claimed Taiwan, boosting Beijing in a part of the world where the United States has a strong influence.

It has also forced other supporters of Taiwan to reassure of their support according to multiple news sources.

Paraguay remains resolute about maintaining diplomatic relations with Taiwan despite Nicaragua’s decision to shift its allegiance to China, the top adviser to the South American country’s President Mario Abdo told Reuters on Friday.

“It is a decision of the Nicaraguan government. We respect it, but Paraguay remains firm in its position to continue diplomatic relations with Taiwan,” Federico Gonzalez, advisor to President Abdo, said in a statement to Reuters.

“For Paraguay this doesn’t change anything. Our position remains the same.”

Paraguay is the only South American nation that maintains ties with Taiwan, a relationship that has been going on for more than six decades. Taiwan finances various infrastructure projects and agricultural support in the country, and donated medical supplies at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, another Reuters report says a creeping barrage of U.S. sanctions on top Central American officials has made China an attractive partner for governments resisting Washington’s push to tackle corruption and democratic backsliding in the region, according to officials and analysts.

Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele ratified his country’s new economic cooperation accord with China earlier this year after Washington put close aides of his on a corruption blacklist.

Bukele, who this week accused Washington of demanding “absolute submission or bust”, in May celebrated that China had made $500 million public investments “without conditions.”

Nicaragua’s decision to embrace China followed a slew of sanctions against aides to President Daniel Ortega following his re-election for a fourth consecutive term in a campaign steeped in the arrests of leading opposition figures.

U.S. pressure on Central American officials ranges from visa revocations to Treasury sanctions, effectively cutting them off from the global banking system. For El Salvador, Washington is also readying criminal charges against two senior Bukele allies.

Beijing offers respite from U.S. pressure, a strategy that has previously thrown economic lifelines to leaders isolated from the West elsewhere in the region, including Venezuela, said R. Evan Ellis, a professor at the U.S. Army War College.

Guatemalan business leaders fret that U.S. pursuit of political elites for graft will drive government officials towards more forgiving allies.

Still, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, who was not invited to a U.S. summit on democracy this week, traveled to Washington anyway and pledged his loyalty to Taiwan.

In Honduras too, the incoming government of President-elect Xiomara Castro has committed to Taipei for now, and close relations with Washington, despite openly toying with a switch to Beijing during her election campaign.

The United States has welcomed that, with the senior U.S. official saying Washington is willing to provide a “surge” in aid to help Castro meet her priority of alleviating Honduras’ dire economic situation.

Still, some Castro allies, including Rodolfo Pastor, a senior member of her transition team, say his country must keep its options on China open, harboring the possibility that Honduras could recognize Beijing in the future.

“I suspect the price Honduras will be trying to extract from its Taiwanese patrons not to flip just went up significantly,” said Ellis at the U.S. Army War College, pointing to Nicaragua.

With Nicaragua gone, Taiwan now only has ties with Belize, Guatemala, Haiti, Holy See (The Vatican), Honduras, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Paraguay, Saint Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Swaziland, and Tuvalu.

Meanwhile, the Caribbean has increased its importance to Taiwan’s diplomatic efforts, with five of the 14 remaining allies (Belize, Haiti, Saint Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent & The Grenadines) being members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and three belonging to the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).


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