Analysis-United States, China tussle over Honduras as it weighs Taiwan ties By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Xiomara Castro, presidential candidate for the opposition Libre Party, speaks through the closing rally of her electoral marketing campaign in San Pedro Sula, Honduras November 20, 2021. REUTERS/Yoseph Amaya//File Photo

By David Alire Garcia

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – A pledge by a number one Honduran presidential candidate to embrace China and de-emphasize Taiwan ties if she wins Sunday’s election has prompted diplomatic jostling between Beijing and Washington as every seeks to exert affect on the Central American nation.

Honduras, with a inhabitants of just below 10 million, is certainly one of a shrinking membership concentrated in Central America and the Caribbean that maintains relations with U.S.-backed Taiwan, which China views as a wayward province.

Leftist Honduran presidential hopeful Xiomara Castro, who has sought to consolidate opposition to a dozen years of conservative rule, mentioned in her election manifesto that she would “of course” search to determine formal ties with Beijing if she wins.

However, shortly after an unusually-timed go to to Honduras this week by Brian Nichols, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere, the Castro aide who wrote the manifesto mentioned no remaining choice has been taken.

Castro’s important opponent, Tegucigalpa Mayor Nasry Asfura, has not spelled out his stance on China, however many anticipate him to proceed the prevailing coverage. Asfura trailed Castro by 17 factors in a single opinion ballot revealed final month, though one other ballot confirmed a tie.

China’s Foreign Ministry accused the United States on Thursday of “arm-twisting” in Honduras forward of the vote this weekend.

“There’s a competition underway in the Americas for influence,” mentioned Dan Restrepo, who was U.S. nationwide safety adviser for Latin America below former President Barack Obama.

“The Chinese are much more active than they have been and the question of recognition is very important to them,” he mentioned, including that Honduras switching to acknowledge China could be a “big change.”

Taiwan says it will respect the results of the election, however has warned Honduras to be cautious of China’s “flashy and false” guarantees.

In its quest to internationally isolate the self-ruled island of Taiwan, China has lately received over a number of of its historic Latin American allies just like the Dominican Republic and most lately El Salvador, on the situation that they break off ties with Taiwan.

A senior U.S. State Department official, who requested anonymity to talk candidly, mentioned the federal government of President Joe Biden want to see Honduran-Taiwanese ties proceed, a message additionally pressured by the Nichols-led U.S. delegation this week.

“We’ve said that to both of the leading candidates directly,” the official informed a small group of reporters, with out detailing their responses.

Washington believes Castro now has a clearer image of its stance and hopes she is going to take that into consideration if she wins, a senior U.S. official informed Reuters.


A swap might imply extra Chinese funding for Honduras, the third poorest nation within the Americas.

Honduran avocado farmer Geovany Pineda, who additionally helps lead a farmers affiliation, is warily hopeful China would trump Taiwan in help for agriculture.

While he factors to a three-year-old Taiwanese program that has doled out almost $four million to spice up native avocado manufacturing, he has a hunch Honduras might get a greater deal.

“I’ve heard that the countries that have established relations with China get a lot more help,” he mentioned.

But not everyone seems to be satisfied, if it dangers weakening ties with the United States.

Juan Carlos Sikaffy, the pinnacle of Honduras’ high enterprise foyer COHEP, argues that whereas China already accounts for as a lot as a fifth of Honduran imports – with out formal diplomatic ties – U.S. companies have extra to supply.

“Economically, it’s not in our interest to have (diplomatic) relations with China because what we want is for American companies that are in China to move to Honduras,” he mentioned, touting cheaper transport prices from the nation’s important northern port in comparison with items shipped to the United States from Shanghai.

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, a lawmaker who heads up the chamber’s Western Hemisphere subcommittee, mentioned Chinese funding in Latin America has a poor observe report, citing final April’s elections in Ecuador the place a pro-American candidate was elected president after a number of main Chinese investments championed by his leftist predecessors got here below heavy scrutiny for sub-standard constructions, amongst different controversies.

The lawmaker provided a warning to Honduran leaders going ahead.

“I’m not telling nations how to conduct foreign policy,” he mentioned. “But desiring closer and closer relations with China usually means you’re going to get fleeced.”

China’s overseas ministry didn’t instantly remark when requested about Kaine’s remarks.

Honduras and Taiwan have a diplomatic relationship courting again to 1941, earlier than the Republic of China authorities fled to Taiwan after shedding the Chinese civil warfare.

Friction between China and Taiwan has risen below President Xi Jinping, whose exhausting line on Hong Kong has fueled hypothesis he’ll push tougher to soak up what Beijing sees as its personal territory.

Earlier this month, outgoing Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez made a shock go to to Taipei after Taiwanese officers there confirmed concern over Castro’s marketing campaign promise.

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