Taiwan has since 1999 been one of five permanent observers – along with Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Morocco – at Parlacen.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has called for Beijing to be given observer status. Photo: AFP

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has called for Beijing to be given observer status. Photo: AFP

But Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega on June 23 proposed in a motion that Parlacen cancel Taipei’s observer status and replace it with Beijing.

Ortega, a deputy speaker, reportedly told the parliament that all members except Guatemala recognised Beijing diplomatically so it should be granted observer status instead of Taipei.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry last week said Nicaragua was trying to “curry favour” with Beijing.

“By proposing to expel Taiwan so as to let in China, undoubtedly, Nicaragua is once again attempting to curry favour with Beijing in hopes of obtaining economic aid and political support to solve its domestic economic woes,” said Hsiao Kuang-wei, deputy spokesman for the foreign ministry.

He said Ortega had in April last year issued a statement that did not go through the parliamentary review and discussion process declaring that there was only “one China”.

Hsiao said Taiwan had never been ruled by the People’s Republic of China and that it was “barbarian and unreasonable” for Beijing to continue using its one-China principle to try to bar Taiwan from taking part in international organisations.

AIT head Sandra Oudkirk says the US believes Taipei has a positive role to play in the international community. Photo: Reuters

Like most countries, the United States, Taiwan’s biggest informal ally and arms supplier, does not recognise the island as an independent state but is opposed to any unilateral change to the status quo by force.

Analysts say if the motion in Parlacen is passed it will be another blow for Taipei in its struggle for international recognition.

“Beijing’s influence in Central America is getting stronger every day,” said Max Lo, executive director of the Taiwan International Strategic Study Society, a Taipei think tank.

“With five of Parlacen’s six member states maintaining official ties with the mainland, there is not much Taiwan can do other than trying to persuade delegates to exercise their moral courage to vote against the proposal.”

Lo said Beijing was likely to target Guatemala next in its bid to isolate Taipei.

Bernardo Arevalo has promised closer ties with Beijing if he wins Guatemala’s election. Photo: AP

Sandra Torres has pledged to continue formal ties with Taiwan if she’s elected. Photo: AFP

In Taipei, the foreign ministry has said it would do all it could to continue to work with Guatemala to deepen bilateral exchanges and cooperation and pursue the interests of both sides, “regardless of who is elected president”.

Taiwan has just two official partners left in Central America, Guatemala and Belize. They are among a dwindling list of allies – only 13 remain – that still maintain formal diplomatic ties with the island.

Lo noted that Taipei could also lose its observer status at the Central American Integration System – the economic and political body of the member states.

Nicaraguan leader Ortega also called for Taiwan’s observer status to be revoked from that body – which it has held since 1992, a year after it was formed – in his statement in April last year.

Lo said Beijing had expanded its influence in Latin America, helped by Donald Trump cutting hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid to countries in the region when he was US president.

But Washington still has significant influence in the region, with President Joe Biden embracing multilateralism, according to Huang Kwei-bo, a professor of diplomacy at National Chengchi University in Taipei.

“Though the US is no longer as influential as before in some countries like Nicaragua and El Salvador, it is still able to exercise its grip in coordinating with other countries in Latin America when it comes to helping Taiwan in its diplomatic tussle with Beijing,” he said.