Lawmakers yesterday denounced the Nicaraguan government’s apparent attempt to keep journalists accompanying President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on her ongoing state visit in the dark about Tsai’s meeting with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, saying the move was disrespectful.
Tsai arrived in Nicaragua, the second leg of her nine-day visit to Central American allies, on Monday afternoon, before meeting with Ortega and Nicaraguan Vice President Rosario Murillo in the evening.
According to the Chinese-language Apple Daily, the Taiwanese delegation of 35 journalists were taken to a news center set up at a hotel shortly after arriving in Nicaragua and were clueless about Tsai’s itinerary.
They only found out about the president’s meeting with Ortega when one of them turned on the TV at about 6:35pm and saw a Nicaraguan state-run channel covering the meeting, which was also attended by Minster of Foreign Affairs David Lee (李大維) and National Security Council Secretary-General Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), the newspaper said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) said to his knowledge Tsai’s itinerary in Nicaragua remained blank before her arrival. Chiang demanded an explanation from government agencies over what he called an extremely disrespectful move.
“Since Nicaragua is Taiwan’s diplomatic ally, there should be no concerns about political sensitivity. That the Nicaraguan government refused to make public the itinerary and grant media access when our head of state is on a state visit to the country begs the question whether our bilateral ties have gone sour” Chiang said.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟) said Taiwan’s complicated international status has made it vulnerable to improper treatment, but not by the nation’s diplomatic allies.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should raise its concerns about the incident and avoid any recurrence,” Chao said.
Lee said that while there had been difficulties setting an exact time for Tsai’s meeting with Ortega beforehand, as a total of six heads of state and many foreign delegations were attending Ortega’s inauguration ceremony yesterday, Managua had demonstrated its sincerity.
“Our delegation received a call [regarding the time of the meeting] at 6:10pm and the meeting took place at 6:30pm,” Lee said, acknowledging that the ministry had been unaware the meeting would be broadcast live.
In Taipei, Department of Latin American and Caribbean Affairs Deputy Director-General Jose Han (韓志正) told a news conference yesterday that the ministry understands that the Nicaraguan government has been preoccupied with preparations for Ortega’s inauguration ceremony.
The ministry respects Nicaragua’s arrangements regarding the meeting of the heads of state, Han said.
According to local media reports, a similar incident occurred when former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) visited Nicaragua in July 2015, when Taiwan’s delegation had little say in when or where a meeting between Ma and Ortega would take place.
The Taiwanese delegation was originally told that Ortega’s meeting with Ma would not be open to the media, only to realize that it was being broadcast live after arriving at the venue.