Taiwan Ousted, Replaced by China as Observer at Central American Parliament

Taiwan Ousted, Replaced by China as Observer at Central American Parliament
Central American Parliament session. (PARLACEN)

The Lede: On Monday, the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN) voted to remove Taiwan from its permanent observer status and replace it with China as the latter’s influence in Central and South America continues to grow.

What We Know:

  • At the suggestion of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, PARLACEN voted to replace Taiwan with China for a permanent observer position. PARLACEN cited the United Nations' 1971 expulsion of Taiwan in favor of mainland China. The body upholds the designation of Taiwan as a province of mainland China, which disqualifies it from participating as an independent country.
  • On Tuesday, Taiwan condemned Nicaragua and China over its removal as a permanent observer. The Taiwanese foreign ministry said it would withdraw from PARLACEN to protect its ‘sovereignty and dignity.’
  • According to Taiwanese foreign ministry spokesperson Jeff Liu, the PARLACEN removal will not affect Taiwan's participation in two other regional organizations: the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) and the Central American Integration System (SICA).

The Background: The Central American Parliament is the political institution and parliamentary body of the Central American Integration System, which is an economic and political organization for coordination among regional member states. Taiwan has been a permanent observer in the organization since 1999. There has been a growing trend of warming ties between Central and South American states and China, which resulted in the sidelining of relations with Taiwan. Beijing has actively expanded its influence in Central America. In March, Honduras severed official relations with Taiwan to recognize China. Other PARLACEN members including Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, and the Dominican Republic have broken off diplomatic relations with Taiwan in recent years. Guatemala, the most populous country in Central America and headquarters of PARLACEN, is the only member of the institution that still recognizes Taiwan. Belize and Paraguay also continue to have relations with Taiwan, but experts believe that Paraguay could be the next country in the region to switch sides in favor of China.

Likely Outcomes:

  • The decision to remove Taiwan in favor of China as a permanent observer signals the increasing trend of acquiescence of countries in the region to Beijing’s influence. This may also encourage Guatemala, Belize, SICA, and CABEI to consider making the switch. However, there are no indications at this time that suggest these changes.
  • Although experts expect Paraguay to be the next Latin American country to abandon ties with Taiwan in favor of China, the recent attendance of Taiwanese Vice President Lai Ching-te at the country’s presidential inauguration may signal a continuation of the bilateral status quo in the near term.
  • The U.S. may take greater stock in Central America’s increasing ties with China, especially given the geographic proximity. U.S. foreign policy in the region may involve more offers of cooperation, funding, investment, and other incentives to shore up American interests. However, decades of unfavorable outcomes from U.S. involvement in Central America may give leaders in these countries pause.


"Since 1999, Taiwan has served as a strong partner in its role as a permanent observer of the Central American Parliament, encouraging good governance and economic development in our Hemisphere.” – statement by Democratic Senator Tim Kaine from Virginia and Republican Senator Marco Rubio from Florida of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere

"We reject the decision of the Central American Parliament to replace observer status of Taiwan w/ the CCP. It goes against the efforts of PARLACEN to bring democracy & peace to the region. This isn't the direction that countries friendly to the U.S. should be taking.” – Bill Cassidy, U.S. Senator (in a Tweet)

"The dictatorship of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua is willing to become a pawn of China... to manipulate the fallacy of the so-called 'one-China principle' and seize our rights in the PARLACEN." – statement from the foreign ministry of Taiwan

Good Reads:

Central America parliament expels Taiwan, makes China permanent observer (Reuters)

Taiwan Condemns China, Nicaragua Over Removal From Central American Body (Barron’s)

Taiwan pulls out of Central American Parliament (Taipei Times)