Taiwan vice president goes to Honduras to work on shaky alliance Political news
Taiwan Vice President William Lai is traveling to Honduras to attend the inauguration of the nation’s next president, Xiomara Castro, and cement shaky ties with the South American country.
In a speech Tuesday at Taiwan’s main international airport, Lai said he would bring supplies to help Honduras fight the COVID-19 pandemic to show his support for Castro’s government.
“As President Castro prepares to promote a new policy, Taiwan will uphold the spirit of pragmatic diplomacy and mutual assistance, deepen cooperation with Honduras, and overcome various difficulties to benefit the peoples of both countries,” Lai said.
The trip comes as China has ramped up pressure to reduce Taiwan’s international footprint. Taiwan has had an independent government since 1949, but China regards self-governing democracy as part of its territory.
Ahead of her win in Honduras’ presidential election late last month, Castro of the left-wing Libre Party said she would establish diplomatic ties with China. Her team has since traced back to that stance.
But in a move that caused some concern among Taiwanese officials, China resumed ties with Nicaragua last month after President Daniel Ortega announced plans to sever ties with Taiwan.
Honduras, a neighbor of Nicaragua, is now one of only 14 countries to have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
Lai, who is scheduled to meet Castro on Wednesday, said he will also have “interactions and exchanges” with “leaders and deputy leaders” from allies and “friendly countries.”
The trip will show the world that Taipei “is a trusted friend and that Taiwan is capable of helping the international community,” Lai said.
Meanwhile, two days before Castro’s inauguration, Honduras faced a political crisis of its own.
On Tuesday, the day the new Congress was scheduled to open its first session, rival Congressional leadership teams called two simultaneous, competing sessions.
One loyal to Castro convened in the Chamber of Congress. The other, led by breakaway members of their own party, was conducted virtually, with support from outgoing President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s party and another opposition party.
The political split has the potential to make Castro almost impossible to govern, analysts said.
Castro – who won the November 28 presidential election to become the country’s first female president and end 12 years of right-wing rule under the National Party – needs a firm majority to implement her anti-corruption and political reform platform.
Efrain Diaz Arrivillaga, a political analyst and former Honduran lawmaker, said the standoff was an attempt to weaken the legislature and split Castro’s party.
“Behind all of this are not only the National Party and the Liberal Party, but also some of the major economic powerhouses in Honduras that have benefited from previous governments,” Diaz told the Associated Press.
The Latin America Working Group (LAWG), a US-based nonprofit group, said the leadership crisis in Congress shows how difficult it will be for the Castro administration to crack down on corruption and organized crime in the country.
“The election of Xiomara Castro offers the United States an opportunity to show Honduran citizens that the US government is now standing up for their rights, rather than siding with the corrupt elites that have ruled Honduras since the 2009 coup,” says Lisa Haugaard, LAWG coordinator. Director said in a statement on Tuesday.
“The US government should work with the new President to fulfill her promise to end corruption and improve the lives of Honduran citizens.”
US Vice President Kamal Harris is expected to attend Castro’s inauguration this week. Citing unnamed US officials, Reuters news agency reported that Harris would not have a formal meeting with Lai in Honduras.
Any such meeting would anger China. While Washington has no official diplomatic ties with Taipei, it is Taiwan’s top international supporter and arms supplier, a frequent source of tension between Washington and Beijing.
Ahead of Honduras’ elections in November, a US delegation visiting Honduras made it clear it wanted the Central American country to maintain its ties with Taiwan.
As is customary when Taiwanese leaders visit Latin American allies, Lai is expected to stop in the US on his way to and from Honduras.