US Senator urges Guatemala to maintain Taiwan diplomatic ties

Marco Rubio urges Guatemalan president to not listen to pro-China aids

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Tsai Ing-wen, left, with Jimmy Morales in January 2017.

Tsai Ing-wen, left, with Jimmy Morales in January 2017. (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – U.S. Senator from Florida, Marco Rubio responded to rumors about pro-China aids influencing Guatemala President Jimmy Morales, and stressed for the Central American country to maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan, in a tweet published on Aug. 30.

Rubio said that El Salvador will lose U.S. aid after switching diplomatic ties from Taiwan to China, and inferred the same thing would happen to Guatemala.

Rumors surrounding China's efforts to entice Guatemala to switch diplomatic allegiances found a louder voice after the Central American country did not release a statement reaffirming ties with Taiwan, after diplomatic ties with El Salvador were severed on August 21.

In an effort to shore up Guatemala-Taiwan ties, Taiwan's former Vice Minister Jose Maria Liu (劉德立) was appointed new ambassador to Guatemala, due to his Latin America expertise, reported Taiwan News.

Rubio gave legitimacy to the rumors and said that some of Morales’ aids are pro-China, and actively working to switch diplomatic allegiances. "I hope he [Morales] doesn't listen to them" said Rubio.

Taiwan has a deep history of supporting Guatemala through aid and developmental assistance.

Taiwan is a frequent partner in disaster relief, and gave Guatemala 1,000 metric tons of rice and US$100,000 (NT$2.9 million) following the Fuego volcano eruption in June 2018

Taiwan has conducted a wide range of capacity building projects, including technical assistance in the use of bamboo as a building material, and support with a Guatemalan government food processing project.

Around 50 Guatemalan students are currently studying in Taiwan under the Taiwan Scholarship Program, or with support from Taiwan's International Cooperation and Development Fund.

Taiwan has supported Guatemala's infrastructure in projects like the congressional television station, Canal del Congreso, and the national Highway CA-9 project.

The CA-9 project  become somewhat of a debacle in August 2017, after Morales announced that Taiwan would assist with a US$600 million funding package, of which US$250 million is a donation. Taiwan's then Ambassador, Charles Liu (劉克裕) said it was too expensive and a "pie-in-sky" request, reported Amandala of Belize.

An unnamed Taiwanese official told CNA on Aug. 10, 2017, that the Taiwan government cannot supply such a large quantity of money, without a substantial development plan.

Guatemala is also one of the eight countries that Taiwan currently has a trade deal with.