Santiago Peña is sworn in as Paraguay's new president in an inauguration ceremony on 15 August 2023 in Asuncion. EFE/Christian Alvarenga

Newly inaugurated Paraguay president: Taiwan is not just an ally but a brother

Asuncion, Aug 15 (EFE).- Newly inaugurated Paraguayan President Santiago Peña on Tuesday stressed the importance his administration will give to diplomatic relations with Taiwan, an island nation that China regards as a breakaway province.

The president of Congress, Silvio Ovelar (third from left) and new President Santiago Peña (2nd from right) take part in the inauguration ceremony on 15 August in Asuncion. EFE/Christian Alvarenga

The 44-year-old economist and former finance minister was the candidate of the conservative Colorado Party, which has governed Paraguay almost uninterruptedly for 76 years.

Pedro Alliana is sworn in as Paraguay's new vice president in the 15 August 2023 inauguration ceremony in Asuncion. EFE/Christian Alvarenga

In his first speech as head of state, he told hundreds of guests gathered on the presidential palace’s esplanade that his government will build “alliances and cooperation with a geostrategic vision, seeking out horizontal accords.”

“Our relationship with the Republic of China, Taiwan, is an example of this and of Paraguay’s friendly and cooperative spirit with nations we have great affection for and which we feel are not just allies but also brothers,” Peña said.

Paraguay is one of just a handful of countries worldwide that maintain diplomatic relations with Taipei and the only one in South America.

He said his administration will keep negotiating with the world “without jeopardizing” the sovereignty, territory, values or culture of Paraguay, whose ties with Taiwan impede any forging of relations with China.

In that regard, Peña said Paraguay’s foreign policy “is based on respect for national interests, effective diplomacy, the promotion of trade and investment,” as well as capacity development, security and the promotion of its “values and interests in the international sphere.”

On the domestic front, Peña said his administration will prioritize sound economic management and has set a goal of creating 500,000 jobs while not raising taxes “on anyone.”

Although Peña’s election victory marked the continued domination of Paraguay by a single political party, he told Efe late last year that his political grouping had taken a new direction by choosing him as its candidate.

“How better to renovate itself than with a person affiliated with another political party,” he said after being named the Colorado Party’s standard bearer for the April 2023 election, referring to his former membership in the opposition, center-left Authentic Radical Liberal Party.

The guests at Peña’s inauguration included Taiwanese Vice President and presidential hopeful William Lai, who to China’s deep displeasure made a stopover in the United States prior to his arrival in Paraguay.

Before touching down in the South American country, Lai stopped off in New York.

He is scheduled to stop in San Francisco on his return journey to Taiwan. EFE