Xiomara Castro tries to save ties with Taiwan

Xiomara Castro tries to save ties with Taiwan

Xiomara Castro's victory in the Honduras presidential elections has put the Central American nation at the heart of an intensifying diplomatic tug-of- war between Taiwan and China.

Honduras is one of only 15 remaining countries that recognizes the sovereignty of Taiwan, which China claims as part of its own territory. But Castro made a manifesto pledge to end that decades-long relationship and establish diplomatic ties with Beijing.

In an apparent attempt to salvage the relationship, Taiwan s President Tsai Ing-wen congratulated Castro on Wednesday and reminded her of their bilateral relations. Ing-wen said on Twitter that they look forward to working with you to strengthen the longstanding Taiwan Honduras partnership.

Castro retweeted the message with a terse reply: Many thanks to President Tsai Ing-wen. Sources within her campaign said that Castro's proposal has sparked concern in Washington, which has urged her to maintain the relationship with Taiwan.

A US delegation visited Honduras the week before the election and made clear its hope that the country would maintain its relationship with Taiwan, a Chinese foreign ministry denounced as arm-twisting and bullying behavior. Experts say that a move to establishing diplomatic relations with China would be motivated by the desire to counter US influence and the potential financial benefits too enticing to pass up.

The economist Ismael Zepeda, of the Honduran thinktank Fosdeh said it was an attempt to balance the hegemony of the United States. Honduras wants to enter the dynamic of saying if you don't support me internally, you have another ally who will give me the resources I need to build mega-projects. Although Taiwan has generously donated to its poorer allies, including Honduras, it cannot compete with the economic largesse of China, which has shownered gifts, loans and investments on other countries in the region who have switched diplomatic allegiances in recent years. In 2017 Panama cut ties with Taipei and has seen a wave of Chinese investment.

Castro will take over the reins of a country still reeling from the effects of the Pandemic and a pair of major hurricanes. In the last four decades, seventy-four per cent of residents fall below the poverty line, the highest percentage in at least four decades.

The situation is much more acute than when Castro's husband, the former president Manuel Zelaya, governed between 2006 and 2009 when he was ousted in a military-backed coup.

Zelaya's administration received hundreds of millions of dollars in cash and subsidies from Venezuela that allowed him to implement popular programs that he is still admired for to this day, because he was benefited economically and politically from Venezuela's generosity. The Biden administration has pledged to provide $4 billion in foreign aid to the region, mainly through civil society and private sector, despite the fact that Venezuela's economy is in ruins.

The availability of resources is the reason why you flirt with China. China is willing to give money for these pharaonic mega projects that governments use in one way or another to project their images, said Zepeda.