Paraguayan president rejects China, maintains ties with Taiwan: envoy

Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez (left) and President Tsai Ing-wen at a banquet during his visit to Taiwan in October 2018. (CNA file photo)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez has chosen to maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan despite efforts by the Chinese government to persuade Asuncion to switch allegiance, according to Paraguay’s top envoy to Taiwan.

Marcial Bobadilla Guillen, Paraguayan ambassador to Taiwan, made the comments Tuesday during the launch of the Taiwan-Paraguay parliamentarian friendship association at the legislature.

Stressing that relations between Paraguay and Taiwan are solid, Guillen said the Chinese government has pressured and continues to pressure Asuncion to switch diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.

In addition, some private enterprises in Paraguay “very much” want the government to turn to Beijing, he further said.

However, President Benitez said no to China because he considers Taiwan to be a true friend and the two countries enjoy a long standing friendship, Guillen said, adding that he believes Paraguay-Taiwan relations will grow even stronger over time.

Paraguay, Taiwan’s only diplomatic ally in South America, established diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1957.

KMT legislator Wen Yu-hsia (right) and Paraguayan ambassador to Taiwan Marcial Bobadilla Guillen.

The friendship association currently has 23 members, all legislators from the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), with Wen Yu-hsia (溫玉霞) serving as its chair and Yeh Yu-lan (葉毓蘭) as its vice-chair.

Wen thanked Paraguay for its staunch support of Taiwan in recent years, when the nation’s international space has been restricted by China.

About 4,000 Taiwanese migrants live in Paraguay, with the furthest Taiwanese settlement from home located in Ciudad Del Este, Paraguay’s second-largest city, Wen said.

Officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and Overseas Community Affairs Council (OCAC), as well as representatives from the World Taiwanese Chambers of Commerce (WTCC) and other South American-related groups attended the event.

Lin Jih-jia (林志嘉), secretary-general of the Legislative Yuan, praised the association as a conduit for consolidating Taiwan-Paraguay relations amid the Chinese government’s ongoing efforts to poach Paraguay.

On March 30, several “left-leaning” legislators in Paraguay petitioned to establish formal ties with Beijing in exchange for medical supplies from China and direct access to the Chinese market.

However, the 45-seat Paraguayan Senate voted against the proposal on April 17, 25-16, with four lawmakers absent.