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Taiwan ally Honduras poised to elect pro-China candidate

Xiomara Castro vows to 'immediately open diplomatic and commercial connections with mainland China'

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Xiomara Castro (right) at Libre rally in Tegucigalpa. (Reuters photo)

Xiomara Castro (right) at Libre rally in Tegucigalpa. (Reuters photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A presidential candidate who could potentially drop diplomatic relations with Taiwan appears poised to win the Honduran presidential election.

Honduras, one of Taiwan's 15 remaining diplomatic allies, has had relations with the country for 80 years. However, this relationship may soon come to an end as a pro-China candidate has taken a commanding lead in the polls.

The ruling National Party candidate and Tegucigalpa Mayor Nasry Asfura was originally believed to be in a strong position to win the election as the rest of the vote appeared to be divided by TV presenter Salvador Nasralla from the Savior Party of Honduras and Xiomara Castro, a member of the top opposition party Liberty and Refoundation Party (Libre).

However, when Nasralla dropped out of the race, it became a one-on-one battle between Castro and Asfura, the latter of whom's party has seen its approval rating drop rapidly. As of the latest poll by Centro de Estudio para la Democracia, or CESPAD, Castro now leads the field with 38%, while Asfura trails with 21%.

One of the campaign pledges by the leftist Castro is that if elected, "Honduras will immediately open diplomatic and commercial connections with mainland China." Beijing's condition with Taiwan's diplomatic allies if they establish diplomatic relations with China is they must cut ties with Taiwan.

Eight out of Taiwan's 15 diplomatic allies are in Central America and the Caribbean, and China has been focusing its efforts on poaching Taiwan's allies in this region. Panama severed ties with Taipei in favor of Beijing in 2017, followed by El Salvador and the Dominican Republic in 2018.

On Tuesday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) Spokesperson Joanne Ou (歐江安) said that the ministry will carefully strengthen communication with the ruling and opposition parties of Honduras and demonstrate that Taiwan is a "trustworthy partner." She added that the ministry will also remind Honduras to be wary of "China’s lip service and tactics to undermine Taiwan-Honduras relations."