Taiwanese, US Vice Presidents in Honduras for Xiomara Castro’s Inauguration Won’t Meet, US Says
© AP Photo / Moises CastilloA banner promoting President-elect Xiomara Castro hangs on a wall at the National Stadium in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022. Castro, Honduras' first female president, is scheduled to be sworn in during a ceremony at the stadium on Thursday, Jan. 27.
As world leaders send delegations to Tegucigalpa for the inauguration of Honduras first female president, Xiomara Castro, two attendees stand out conspicuously: Taiwanese Vice President William Lai and US Vice President Kamala Harris.
Lai left Taipei for Honduras on Tuesday, saying at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport that he was taking along tools to help the Central American nation fight the COVID-19 pandemic. It is his first trip overseas since taking office in 2020.
“We will use concrete action and specific measures to show our support for deeper ties and the new government,” he said, adding that ties would continue based on pragmatism and reciprocity, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency.
"As President Castro prepares to promote new policies, Taiwan will uphold the spirit of pragmatic diplomacy and mutual assistance, deepen cooperation with Honduras, and overcome various difficulties to benefit both countries' peoples," Lai added.
On the campaign trail, Castro had promised to end her country’s diplomatic relations with Taiwan and to recognize the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the legitimate government of all of China. However, since winning the election, her transition team has signaled that such a switch is by no means imminent.
© REUTERS / ANN WANGTaiwan Vice President William Lai waves to the media at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, before leaving for Honduras to attend the inauguration ceremony of the new president, in Taoyuan, Taiwan, January 25, 2022.
Taiwan Vice President William Lai waves to the media at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, before leaving for Honduras to attend the inauguration ceremony of the new president, in Taoyuan, Taiwan, January 25, 2022.
Formally calling itself the Republic of China, the government in Taipei is all that remains of the republican state that ruled China from 1912, when the last Chinese emperor abdicated the throne, until 1949, when the communist Red Army emerged victorious in a civil war and seized all of the Chinese mainland. Both governments claim to be the sole legitimate Chinese government, but over the years, all but 14 of the world’s nations have switched over to recognizing Beijing, which regards Taiwan as a part of China governed by a rebel force.
The most recent to switch was Nicaragua, which announced the move last month after the US introduced punishing new sanctions in rejection of that country’s elections, which were won by the democratic socialist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). Beijing and Managua have rapidly moved forward on incorporating Nicaragua into the Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure megaproject in the month since.
Taiwan is looking to strengthen its relationship with the few remaining countries that support it, nearly all of which are small Caribbean and Pacific states under Washington’s thumb. Last week, Sputnik reported that Taiwan had footed the $900,000 bill for a lobbyist in Washington to represent the interests of Guatemala, one of the 14 nations that recognize Taiwan.
Harris will also be attending the ceremonies, although US officials “suggested to Reuters” that she and Lai would not meet, as such an incident would anger Beijing. The US provides open but informal support to Taiwan, including advanced military equipment, which Beijing regards as US intervention in Chinese internal affairs.
"The Vice President's visit will further the commitment she and President-elect Castro made during their December 10 phone call to deepen the partnership between the United States and Honduras and work together to advance economic growth, combat corruption, and address the root causes of migration," said Sabrina Singh, deputy press secretary for the vice president, about Harris’ visit.
The US vice president’s presence is a reminder of the 2009 constitutional coup against Castro’s husband, Manuel Zelaya, that was carried out with US approval after Zelaya’s left-wing government pushed ahead with social programs and association with the regional trading block ALBA, organized by Cuba and Venezuela. Accompanying Harris is Samantha Power, director of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), a US State Department agency that worked hard to orchestrate support for the right-wing government that took power after Zelaya’s removal.
© AP Photo / Moises CastilloFree Party presidential candidate Xiomara Castro has her hand raised by her running mate Salvador Nasralla after general elections, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021. Castro claimed victory, setting up a showdown with the National Party which said its candidate had won a vote that could end the conservative party's 12 years in power.
Free Party presidential candidate Xiomara Castro has her hand raised by her running mate Salvador Nasralla after general elections, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021. Castro claimed victory, setting up a showdown with the National Party which said its candidate had won a vote that could end the conservative party's 12 years in power.
That government catered to US corporate interests and extensively privatized the government’s functions, turning municipal administrations, schools, energy services, and security services into private corporate charters. Those security forces have been blamed for skyrocketing violence against indigenous Hondurans and LGBTQ people, fueling a massive exodus of refugees who’ve fled north toward the United States over the last decade.
Castro’s government has already faced a crisis in the parliament, where a brawl broke out on Sunday after lawmakers refused to abide by a deal between Castro and her election rival, Salvador Nasralla, for a member of Nasralla’s Savior Party to become parliamentary speaker. Instead of recognizing her pick, Luis Redondo, members of outgoing President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s National Party rebelled and were joined by several Libre lawmakers, picking their own separate speaker, Libre Rep. Jorge Calix. Several lawmakers have since backtracked and rejoined the parliament.
However, other nations have also sent their vice presidents to attend Castro’s inauguration, including Argentina’s Cristina Kirchner and Cuba’s Salvador Mesa. Felipe VI, King of Spain, is also due to attend the ceremonies. Honduras was a Spanish colony for centuries before gaining independence in 1821 as a part of Mexico, from which it split two years later.