Nicaragua’s sudden diplomatic switch from Taiwan to China was part of efforts by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s government to protect itself from recent international sanctions against Managua, a senior US administration official said on Friday.
China and Nicaragua on Friday re-established diplomatic ties after the Central American country broke relations with Taiwan, boosting Beijing in a part of the world long considered the US’ backyard, and angering Washington.
Nicaragua’s abrupt break with Taiwan followed months of worsening ties between Ortega and US President Joe Biden’s administration.
Washington has imposed new targeted sanctions on Nicaraguan officials following the country’s elections last month.
Biden called the elections a “pantomime” that was neither free nor fair as Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla and Cold War adversary of the US, won a fourth consecutive term.
The US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Nicaragua’s embrace of China was part of Ortega’s effort to consolidate his “authoritarian regime,” describing it as a response to sanctions by Washington and several other countries.
Washington viewed Nicaragua’s diplomatic switch as partly in response to such pressure from the international community, the official said.
“They have felt that pressure and perhaps need the PRC [People’s Republic of China] support, or think they need the PRC support, for their way forward as they hunker down in a more authoritarian posture,” the official said.
Nicaragua’s switch was a very “specific” case, the official said, adding that the US does not believe other such moves are imminent in the hemisphere.
US Department of State spokesman Ned Price late on Thursday said that Ortega does not have a democratic mandate to break ties with Taiwan as he only wields power due to the “sham” Nov. 7 presidential elections.
Ortega’s government arrested seven presidential candidates ahead of the poll.
After Nicaragua’s move, the top adviser to Paraguay’s president said that the South American country remains resolute about maintaining diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
“It is a decision of the Nicaraguan government. We respect it, but Paraguay remains firm in its position to continue diplomatic relations with Taiwan,” Federico Gonzalez, adviser to Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez, said in a statement.
“For Paraguay this doesn’t change anything. Our position remains the same,” Gonzalez said.
Paraguay is now the only South American nation that maintains ties with Taiwan, a relationship that has been going on for more than six decades.
Taiwan finances various infrastructure projects and agricultural support projects in the country, and donated medical supplies at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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