Santiago Pena and Tsai Ing-wen
Santiago Pena and Tsai Ing-wen Santiago Pena/Instagram

Santiago Pena, who is Paraguay's President-elect, said on Wednesday that he will maintain a diplomatic relationship with Taiwan.

China considers Taiwan, which is self-governed, as a breakaway province. China has prohibited its diplomatic partners from having formal ties with Taipei, as the Associated Press reported.

Earlier this year, Honduras ended decades of ties in favor of China. So, now only 13 countries recognize Taiwan. Paraguay has become the last South American nation that has formal relations with Taiwan.

During his election campaign, Pena had pledged to maintain over six decades of relations with Taiwan. He did so even though there was pressure from Paraguay's agricultural sector. It wants to open up lucrative Chinese markets to beef and soybeans.

Pena's main competitor, Efrain Alegre, had advocated switching allegiance to China during the election campaign.

Pena, who will take office on Aug. 15, met Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, and said that as his country's president, he would stick with Taipei.

He reiterated his commitment, "our commitment as Paraguayans, to stand by the people of Taiwan in the next five years."

He predicted that the era that is beginning now in the two countries' bilateral relationship, they are "determined to take it to places we never even imagined before."

He said that he will work for the following years to convey to the people of Taiwan, "principally the businesses community, that investing in Paraguay is responding to diplomatic or political interests." It is also responding to the "mutual economic benefit" of both countries.

According to VOA, Pena said that he studied in Taiwan in 1999. He shared that he was bringing "the love and affection of all the Paraguayan people."

Taiwan's Vice President William Lai might attend Pena's inauguration. He is the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's candidate in his country's presidential elections to be in January 2024. Before meeting Tsai, Pena met Lai, as per Reuters.

Pena also invited Tsai, who has served two terms in office, to visit his country after she leaves office next year.

Tsai said that as they face the expansion of authoritarianism, they expect her country and Paraguay to "stand together on the frontline of free democracy and contribute to global stability and development."

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