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Home World News Washington Post World News Honduras fleeing Taiwan raises greater geopolitical concerns

Honduras fleeing Taiwan raises greater geopolitical concerns



MEXICO CITY — Honduras’ decision to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of China is another sign of growing Chinese influence in Latin America.

For decades, the Asian superpower has funneled billions of dollars into investment and infrastructure projects across the region. With geopolitical tensions simmering between China and the Biden administration, that spending has paid off.

Honduras’ decision was the second foreign policy coup in a week for China, which last week brokered a deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore diplomatic ties.

Now Taiwan is recognized by only 13 countries. But some of the few remaining in Latin America, such as Paraguay and Guatemala, pledged to maintain their support for Taiwan on Wednesday.

Honduras’ foreign relations minister Enrique Reina told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Hondurans are “grateful” for their past relationship with Taiwan, but their economic ties to China ultimately prompted their government to cut diplomatic ties.

“These are political decisions. The world is moving in this direction,” Reina said. will benefit the country.”

The Central American nation is following the steps of El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic in turning its back on Taiwan.

Honduras’ announcement on Tuesday was a blow to the Biden administration, which has been trying rather unsuccessfully to persuade countries in the region to stick with Taiwan. Taiwan, an ally of the US, has pushed for sovereignty at the same time as Chinese President Xi Jinping has pushed for the island to be firmly under his control.

In that sense, Tuesday’s announcement also illustrates that the US government is “losing its grip on Latin America,” said David Castrillon-Kerrigan, a research professor on China-related issues at Colombia’s Externado University.

“For countries like Honduras, not recognizing the Beijing government meant missing out on opportunities,” said Castrillon-Kerrigan. The United States is “finally losing its influence on every front, especially economically, but also diplomatically, politically and culturally.”

It has left the island with a dwindling number of allies. Reina told the AP that the Biden administration should “understand and respect Honduras’ needs and decisions.”

But some, such as Paraguay and Guatemala, remained steadfast in their support for Taiwan. Guatemalan officials reiterated the government’s “recognition of Taiwan as an independent nation that shares democratic values”.

Over the past two decades, China has slowly carved out a niche for itself in Latin America by pouring money into the region and investing in major infrastructure, energy and space projects.

According to the United States Institute of Peace, the Chinese invested more than $130 billion in Latin America between 2005 and 2020. Trade between China and the region has also skyrocketed and is expected to exceed $700 billion by 2035.

That investment has translated into increasing power for China and a growing number of allies.

In Honduras, that has come in the form of the construction of a hydroelectric dam project in central Honduras, built by the Chinese company SINOHYDRO with about $300 million in Chinese government funding.

Meanwhile, in many countries, the US government has not intervened with similar-sized projects.

While many see the investment as a positive step for countries that often struggle to raise funds for development, some, such as June Teufel, a professor of political science at the University of Miami, are concerned about the long-term effects that the rise of the Chinese might have. .

Teufel said China is using that new influence as “a diplomatic weapon”.

In many countries in Africa and Latin America, Chinese investment is marred by mounting debt in developing countries. In many cases, infrastructure projects can only be repaired by Chinese companies, which means a higher bill, Teufel said.

“It’s kind of like the drug dealer says to the potential customer: the first dose is free,” Teufel said. “It causes another country to leave Taiwan, something it has wanted to do for a long time, robbing Taiwan of all its remaining allies.”

Associated Press correspondents Daniel Politi in Buenos Aires and Sonia Perez in Guatemala City contributed to this report.

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