By Sofia Menchu
GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen completed a three-day trip to Guatemala on Sunday where she offered more cooperation with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei’s government, one of Taiwan’s few allies in the world.
Tsai’s tour, which will take her to Belize on Sunday afternoon, comes a week after Honduras severed diplomatic relations with Taipei in favor of Beijing.
China and Taiwan have tussled for influence in Latin America since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, with Beijing considering Taiwan part of Chinese territory, a position Taipei strongly rejects. China refuses to allow other countries to maintain diplomatic relations with both at the same time.
While visiting Guatemala, Tsai signed a $4 million agreement to modernize rural areas and promised to promote and increase cooperation between the two countries.
“From now on, Taiwan and Guatemala will continue to show solidarity to each other, deepening cooperation in all possible areas based on firm objectives, solidarity and mutual benefit,” Tsai said during a tour of a hospital built with Taiwanese help.
Before arriving in Guatemala – one of the 13 countries that Taiwan has diplomatic relations with – Tsai made a controversial stopover in New York, angering China, which has repeatedly warned U.S. officials not to meet Tsai.
Chinese influence in Latin America has increased in recent years, with Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama and Costa Rica abandoning Taipei in favor of Beijing.
Guatemala’s president thanked Tsai for visiting the Central American country.
“This visit in which we strengthened our ties of friendship will stay in our hearts,” Giammattei said.
Guatemala’s stance of maintaining relations with Taiwan is a way of currying favor with the U.S. at a time when relations with Washington have been strained, former Guatemalan Foreign Minister Edgar Gutierrez told Reuters on Sunday.
Guatemala’s government is trying to rebuild bridges with certain U.S institutions by “offering Guatemala as a migrant deposit, moving its embassy to Jerusalem, supporting Ukraine … extraditing more than 100 drug traffickers in 2022 and remaining an ally of Taiwan,” Gutierrez said.
(Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Writing by Diego Oré and Oliver Griffin; Editing by Josie Kao)