• Directory of Taiwan

Ma's Taiwan lords over weak allies

President Ma Ying-jeou's just concluded "Lasting Amity" diplomatic mission both displayed the inability of his restored Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) government to grasp the depth of revulsion in democratic Latin America to the military coup in Honduras and the martinet-like arrogance of Taiwan's "professional" diplomats.
Ironically, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega of the leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) and the crisis in Honduras figured in both phenomenon.
It should hardly be surprising that Ortega's Sandinista government is deeply concerned over the worsening political crisis in Honduras since the ouster and exile of democratically elected (if politically inept) President Jose Manuel Zelaya by a military coup June 28.
After all, for a decade after the Sandinista revolution of July 1979 that ended over four decades of the corrupt father and son Somoza dictatorship, the Honduras border area was the staging ground for a bitter covert war launched by pro-Somoza "counter-revolutionaries" or "contras" organized secretly by the United States Reagan administration and financed by many countries, ironically including both Taiwan under the (then) rabidly anti-Communist KMT regime under the late autocrat Chiang Ching-kuo and its then foe, the Chinese Communist Party-ruled People's Republic of China.
Ortega and the FSLN government are especially concerned with the possible restoration of military government in Honduras and the strong likelihood that such a regime would resume a nationalistic position on border issues to divert public attention from internal regressions in civic and political rights and news freedom.
Just before Ma's arrival July 3 after a three-day visit to Panama City for the inaugural of new Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, Ortega was struck a personal body blow with the apparent suicide of FSLN Managua City Mayor Alexis Arquella and was unable to welcome the Taiwan president upon his arrival at Managua International Airport Friday morning due to Arquella's funeral.
Despite the overarching preoccupations of the Honduran crisis and the death of his close friend and probable political successor, Ortega met with Ma and other Taiwan officials shortly after their arrival at the Presidential House and later personally drove his Taiwan counterpart to an agricultural exhibition in Mastege, southwest of Managua, that showcased the fruits of Taiwan agricultural technical and management assistance in combatting rural poverty.
While Nicaraguan leader brought smiles to Ma's face with lavish praise and undeserved gratitude for projects mostly initiated under previous Taiwan leaders, Ortega committed, in the eyes of Taiwan martinets, an unforgivable slight by failing to appear at the official state banquet that evening.
Flexing the muscles
Before the reasons for this egregious violation of protocol were discerned, Taiwan diplomats demanded that Ortega both explain and apologize or else face the cancellation of an important US$3.7 million "Microfer" commercial training and exhibition facility funded mainly by Taiwan as an incubator of creative "micro-entrepreneurship and sustainable employment.
In the event, Ortega called the Taiwan ambassador to Nicaragua in the wee hours Saturday to explain that his absence was caused by emergency developments in the Honduran crisis and Zelaya's sudden arrival and offered effusive apologies for missing Friday's fete.
The Sandinista leader repeated these explanations and apologies in to Ma privately Saturday morning and publicly at a noon overseas Taiwanese banquet.
Taiwan government sources boasted that such a display of "firmness" in the defense of "dignity" for "maltreatment" at the hands of diplomatic partners was "inconceivable" under the former Democratic Progressive Party administration of Chen Shui-bian because the latter's intense international struggle with Beijing left Taipei at the mercy of its smaller and usually poorer allies.
However, such charges have only partial validity and fall short of "proving" that this diplomatic "triumph" resulted from Ma's truce with the PRC and a resulting "buyer's market" for diplomatic allies.
The gap between the Chen and Ma eras actually lies in the divergent priorities of a grassroots president and party which, for all of its faults, was rooted in the common people and did not define "dignity" in terms of aristocratic protocol but in terms of mutual respect and justice and a restored caste of martinets with a dualistic mentality accustomed to bullying the weak and cravenly kowtows to the strong, now defined as the PRC.
Ortega's regret may have been sincere, but thanks to the decision by Taiwan diplomats to jump on their high horses, it is difficult to be certain whether he apologized out of ordinary courtesy or was forced to do so because of Taipei's implied willingness to trash an assistance project and thus harm his people or even risk a rupture in ties over a missed meal.
We find little for Taiwan to be proud about in this "triumph" while the same KMT government has trashed Taiwan's genuine dignity itself by denying that Taiwan is an independent state and accepting a status as a client state in all but name under PRC suzerainty.

Updated : 2021-05-12 04:38 GMT+08:00