Paraguay’s President-elect Santiago Peña has said he will continue to strengthen ties with Taiwan, following a bruising campaign that saw relations with the self-governing island thrown into question.
The statement, which followed a congratulatory call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, indicated that Paraguay would not go the way of other Latin American countries in cutting formal ties with Taiwan in order to forge relations with China, which considers the island its territory.
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“We will keep strengthening the historic ties between Paraguay and the Republic of China [Taiwan], and look forward to working on mutually beneficial cooperation projects,” Peña said on Twitter.
Tsai, meanwhile, congratulated Peña and thanked him for “expressing his firm stance to maintain and strengthen the Taiwan-Paraguay relations”, her office said in a statement.
Peña told Tsai he looks forward to visiting the island and meeting her “as soon as possible”, the office said.
Since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, Taiwan has been a self-governing island, but Beijing has never recognised its sovereignty, instead advocating for “one China”.
Only 13 countries currently maintain official diplomatic ties with the island, although many Western countries have continued to support Taiwan through trade and informal relations.
Latin America has seen a distinct shift away from the island in recent years, with Honduras in March becoming the latest country to sever ties by recognising “the existence of just one China in the world”.
Honduras followed Panama, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, countries that, in recent years, also moved to break ties with the island in favour of China. Officials in Taipei have accused China of using “coercion and intimidation” to motivate the changes, which Beijing has denied.
In the run-up to Paraguay’s vote, opposition candidate Efraín Alegre had also said he would seek to move his country closer to China to boost agricultural ties.
In early April, Tsai visited Guatemala and Belize in Central America on a reassurance tour. Leaders of both countries reaffirmed their ties with the island during the visit.
Paraguay is currently the only country in South America that continues to recognise Taiwan.