At a time when it appears that President Danny Ortega of Nicaragua has destroyed his international diplomatic relationships, Taiwan is stepping up to the plate. The Los Angeles Times reports that Taiwan has pledged $100 million loan for Nicaragua’s infrastructure development and renovations. By signing on to the loan agreement, President Danny Ortega is demonstrating a determination to stay in power, against all odds. The move ‘distances’ Nicaragua from its Central American neighbors, like El Salvador, that have switched their diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China last year. Though, more importantly, the decision will threaten Nicaragua’s relationship with the United States, giving the administration in Washington greater cause to seek Nicaragua’s ouster from trade agreements and international organizations.
In Managua, protests began last spring to urge changes in Nicaragua’s Social Security system and a speedier government response to a wildfire in a biological reserve. Nicaraguan soldiers, police and other government-affiliated agents have reportedly killed more than 300 protesters and injured thousands more.
Last July, the White House announced it had confiscated U.S.-donated vehicles and suspended future donations in response to Ortega’s crackdown. The U.S. also accused the onetime revolutionary hero for the leftist Sandinista Front, and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, of having “brutalized their own people.”
Luxembourg and the Netherlands also suspended assistance last year and a European Parliament delegation urged Ortega last month to release political prisoners.
Taiwan normally aids its allies with smaller dollar amounts compared to China and allocates it for more specific uses, such as loans for highway construction or medical system upgrades.
The Taiwan government seldom discloses aid amounts, with experts saying that citizens might otherwise accuse their government of checkbook diplomacy to vie against China.
“A lot of people will have their suspicions, especially as our own economy isn’t so strong,” said Gratiana Jung, a political science PhD candidate at National Taiwan University. “You can’t vie with China on money or quantity of aid, but you can on quality.”
Still, Taiwanese voters have said they expect their government to foster foreign relations to the degree that some countries will speak on its behalf in the United Nations. China has effectively barred Taiwan from U.N. agencies since the 1970s.