Honduran president due in Taiwan in surprise state visit

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The outgoing Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez was due to start a three-day surprise visit to Taiwan on Friday as the self-ruled island, which is also claimed by China, worries that the next president of the Central American nation may break off relations and switch to diplomatic ties with Beijing.

Hernandez and his wife will meet President Tsai Ing-wen as part of a celebration of 80 years of diplomatic relations between Taiwan and Honduras. The Honduran bank’s Central American Bank for Economic Integration will be visited by him.

Hernandez’s trip comes just weeks ahead of the presidential election in Honduras. His departure from office is scheduled for January. He has been increasingly isolated by the allegations that he may have ties with drug traffickers. U.S. authorities had arrested his brother in Miami in 2018 on suspicion of drug trafficking.

Politically, there’s little to gain in his trip. Antonio C. Hsiang is a Latin America scholar at La Academia Nacional de Estudios Y Estrategicos and said Hernandez won’t be able run again for office. He said Hernandez will be visiting Taiwan in the future to get financial and other support.

Taiwan, meanwhile, is concerned about the election as one of the leading candidates has openly said she is in favor of establishing ties with China, which means Honduras will cease recognizing Taiwan as a country.

Xiomara Castro, the presidential candidate, said in a June 28 post on her Facebook page: “I believe in multipolarity and because of that I propose opening international relations with continental China, which would help the country incorporate into the market with the market of the world’s greatest growth.”

China has been on a campaign to poach Taiwan’s allies, of which only 15 remain. China uses diplomatic and economic tactics to convince countries to recognize Taiwan as China.

China says Taiwan is not a country and is merely another province, to be reunified by force if necessary. Taiwan says it has essentially been functioning independently as a country since the two sides split after a civil war in 1949.

Associated Press writer Marlon Gonzalez in Tegucigalpa, Honduras contributed to this report.

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