Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei on Saturday toured a hospital built with support from Taipei, reaffirming their close diplomatic ties as the self-governing island seeks to strengthen relations with its remaining allies in Central America.
It was the final day of Tsai’s three-day visit to Guatemala and came shortly after Honduras announced it would break ties with Taiwan and switch its support to China, joining Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador and Costa Rica. Belize – the next stop on Tsai’s trip – is the only other Central American country to maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
Giammattei once again thanked Taiwan’s leader for her government’s economic support and said Guatemala’s friendship with Taiwan was “unchangeable.”
Sunday’s visit came a day after the leaders toured the Guatemalan archaeological site of Tikal, one of the most important urban centers of the Mayan civilization.
The hospital in Chimaltengo department built with a donation from Taiwan will serve patients from four departments in Guatemala and cost an estimated $22 million to build. It opened in February.
Tsai said she was pleased with the construction of the hospital, which, according to her, “will be able to provide better medical care and service.
Construction of the hospital has brought controversy. Two weeks ago, the attorney general announced an investigation into allegations of a $10 million fraud in the purchase of equipment for the hospital. Prosecutors allege former vice minister of health, Gerardo Hernández, authorized the purchase of used equipment and material. A company and the director of the hospital were allegedly in on the scheme.
The trip also is aimed to solidifying ties in Latin America as China funnels money into the region and pressures its countries to break off relations with the self-governed democratic island.
Taiwan now has no more than 13 official diplomatic partners. More than half of those are small countries in Latin America and the Caribbean: Belize, Guatemala, Paraguay, Haiti, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.