President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has appointed Vice President William Lai (賴清德) to lead a delegation to attend the inauguration ceremony of Paraguayan president-elect Santiago Pena next month, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Yui said yesterday.
Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez and Pena invited Tsai to attend the ceremony, Yui told a news conference at the Presidential Office in Taipei.
As attending the presidential inauguration of a diplomatic ally demonstrates the friendship between the two countries, Tsai appointed Lai as special envoy to deliver Taiwan’s congratulations to Pena, and has notified Abdo and Pena about the arrangement, Yui said.
Lai and the delegation are scheduled to arrive in Paraguay on Aug. 14 and attend the inauguration the next day, he said.
Lai would attend other events on behalf of Tsai, including celebrations for Asuncion’s 486th anniversary, Yui said.
Lai would meet with Abdo and Pena to exchange opinions on bilateral and international issues of common concern, he said, adding that other meetings would be arranged.
Photo: Fabian Hamacher, Reuters
Abdo visited Taiwan in February to affirm the friendship between Paraguay and Taiwan, saying that severing diplomatic relations with Taiwan would be a “historic mistake.”
Pena, during his visit to Taiwan last week, pledged his “full support” for Paraguay’s diplomatic ties with Taiwan, and “to be on the side of the people of Taiwan for the next five years,” when the next presidential election would be held.
To congratulate Pena in person on behalf of Taiwan and Taiwanese is “hugely meaningful,” Yui said.
Asked whether Lai would stop over in the US on the way to Paraguay, Yui said that it is customary for Taiwanese officials to do so while visiting South or Central America, and this time would be no exception.
In response to concerns that it might anger China, Yui said that the government had made arrangements for the vice president to make stopovers in the US 10 times, so there is no reason that his 11th trip would result in unnecessary harassment.
In other developments, visiting National Endowment for Democracy president Damon Wilson yesterday called on freedom-loving people around the world to help Taiwan safeguard democracy and freedom during a meeting with Lai.
“Our [foundation’s] commitment to Taiwan and its democracy is rock solid, and one of the most important priorities for the cause of freedom around the world today,” Wilson said, adding that this was why he had visited Taiwan more than any other place in the world during his tenure.
This is Wilson’s third visit to the nation in the past two years.
Taiwan’s hard-fought journey of democratization has earned the world’s respect, he said.
A delegation from the nonprofit foundation visited the site where the 228 Incident was triggered and the Nylon Cheng Liberty Foundation and Memorial Museum to learn more about Taiwan’s democratization process, Wilson said.
Taiwan’s compelling democracy makes freedom-loving people all over the world, including Americans, feel a sense of solidarity with Taiwan and a desire to help it defend its democracy and freedom, he said.
The foundation, a bipartisan independent organization supported by the US Congress, was founded 40 years ago, Wilson said, adding that it has a presence in more than 100 countries.
He said he enjoys working with the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and hopes the two foundations can continue to work together for another 20 years.
He also paid tribute to Tsai and thanked her for her contributions to democracy.
Lai thanked Wilson for valuing and supporting Taiwan’s democratic development.
With the help of the National Endowment for Democracy, many Taiwanese civic groups have stepped onto the global stage to show the world that Taiwan is a country “filled with democratic energy,” Lai said.
Taiwan’s achievements in democracy are the result of many people’s sacrifices and dedication, he said.
Taiwan ranked first among Asian nations in last year’s Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index and second in Asia in the Freedom in the World 2023 report published by Freedom House, he said.
The accomplishment is partly due to the efforts of Taiwanese and partly due to support from international friends such as the National Endowment for Democracy, he said.
Lai said he hoped the organization would continue supporting Taiwan and that the international community would pay more attention to the nation.
He called on other countries to work together to safeguard peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region and protect freedom and democracy in democratic nations.
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