Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benítez doesn’t mince words. He has told Taiwan to give them money or risk his country switching diplomatic recognition to mainland China. Are all Latin American politicians so blunt? “There is Taiwanese investment of more than US$6 billion in countries which don’t have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, we want from that US$1 billion to be put in Paraguay,” he told the Financial Times. “That will help us to build the argument about the importance of this strategic alliance with Taiwan.” He said he faced “enormous” pressure to tilt towards Beijing. “Imagine what the [agricultural] producers say when meat prices fall and they don’t have access to China,” Abdo said. “They ask you: ‘Please, we have to open up to the Chinese market. What does Taiwan give us when we are a country which could sell its entire soy and meat output to China?’” Paraguay says ‘excellent’ Taiwan ties do not depend on new investment Paraguay is one of 14 states that still recognise the island of Taiwan instead of mainland China. In recent years, Solomon Islands in the South Pacific, and Panama, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua in Latin America have switched ties. A Foreign Policy Analysis study last year estimated that Paraguay had to forgo the equivalent of 1 per cent of gross domestic product per year in lost aid and investment between 2005 and 2014 from China. While Paraguay’s foreign ministry subsequently “clarified” that Abdo didn’t mean there was to be any “quid pro quo” with Taiwan, his words spoke for themselves. Abdo said in the interview that his health minister met the Chinese consul in Brazil about vaccine aid at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. “You have three options,” Abdo quoted the consul as saying. “You can be Chinese, which you aren’t, an ally of China, which you aren’t, or a poor country which you aren’t either.” Apparently, Guatemala and Honduras, both allies of Taiwan, were given a similar message. China has been making inroads across South America in the last decade. Both Taipei and Washington, which has been putting pressure on the remaining countries in Latin America and the Caribbean not to switch sides, are reportedly alarmed by Abdo; hence the ministry’s subsequent statement. They should be. A few billion is peanuts to the Chinese. And they could just dangle the possibility of opening the mainland market to Paraguay. By next year, don’t be surprised if there is a Chinese embassy in Asunción.