Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez on Tuesday said that the country would not accept any kind of blackmail or diplomatic conditions in exchange for COVID-19 vaccine purchases.
Abdo Benitez’s remarks followed media reports over the past month that the South American nation might switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China, as it was desperate to obtain vaccines due to surging COVID-19 cases.
Paraguay is one of Taiwan’s 15 diplomatic allies and the only one in South America. Speculation was rife that it could switch sides, especially after Guyana in February backed out of its agreement with Taiwan over the establishment of a Taiwanese representative office.
Photo: Screen grab from Twitter
After the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taipei reaffirmed ties with Asuncion and pledged to continue helping it obtain vaccines by engaging other friends, Abdo Benitez said in a statement that his government was open to all possibilities to buy more vaccines.
However, “these negotiations must take place within the framework of respect for independence and diplomatic freedom,” he added.
“We have no problem buying from anywhere. Now, we are not going to accept any kind of blackmail for vaccine purchases. We ask and we are open to have direct dealings with factories in China, without any type of conditions regarding diplomatic relations,” he said.
Paraguay has signed a contract with the Indian company Bharat Biotech for the purchase of 2 million doses of vaccines, and expects to receive another 100,000 donated by India next week, he said.
“I am optimistic about the quantities of vaccines that we are going to receive. I believe that by the end of the year or by the middle of the year, Paraguay will have a good volume of vaccines and we will advance with the vaccination process,” he said.
As of Tuesday, the South American nation had 250,165 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 5,313 deaths, while as of Thursday last week, a total of 74,340 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered, WHO data showed.
The foreign ministry said it was glad to see the Paraguayan government continue to receive COVID-19 vaccines under the joint efforts of various parties.
Access to vaccines is a public health, as well as a humanitarian, issue, which is pertinent to people’s life and should not become a tool for political maneuvering, ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said in a statement.
It is not only the Paraguayan government that rejects any type of blackmail to acquire vaccines, the Taiwanese government is also firmly opposed to any vaccine supply that involves certain conditions and is aimed at damaging Taiwan-Paraguay ties, Ou said.
The government will continue to engage like-minded partners to defend democracy and freedom, and help Paraguay combat the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.
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