There’s a new democratic wind blowing in Paraguay, and according to a report in the Paraguayan paper La Nacion and a recent Taiwan News editorial, things in Paraguay are looking grim for Taiwan (Espanol to Ingles translation by Google):

Taiwan announced today that it will strengthen its communications with the Paraguayan president-elect, former Catholic Bishop Fernando Lugo, with the objective of maintaining the more than 50 years of relations between Taipei and Asuncion, according to a dispatch from the agency Deutsche Presse.

“We have spoken with the president-elect, Fernando Lugo, on the long and close relationship between Paraguay and Taiwan before and after the presidential election in Paraguay,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Taiwanese, Phoebe Yeh.

“We will continue to communicate with him and other relevant authorities, with the hope that Paraguay does not sacrifice the interests of Taiwan to develop relations with other countries,” he added.

His comments come one day after he Lugo said at a press conference that Paraguay can not turn a deaf ear to growing calls from both the parliament and Paraguayan society in favour of establishing diplomatic relations with China.

Taiwan News put the implications of this development into perspective with an excellent editorial that can be summed up by the rhetorical comment of the Paraguayan President-elect, from a coalition that:

Ironically, Lugo also cited as a justification for this position the signs that ties between Taiwan and the PRC will warm up after Ma himself is inaugurated on May 20, saying that “If Taiwan can have relations with China, why can’t we?”

The editorial goes on to note:

Taiwan’s first post-martial law president Lee Teng-hui of the KMT also curried favor with Paraguay’s post-dictatorship Colorado rulers and granted loans of US$400 million and drew up unrealized plans to establish an export-processing zone for Taiwanese investors and other “checkbook” moves out of fear of losing ties with Asuncion.

While the DPP government has reoriented Taiwan’s aid programs away from blanket “loans” to case-by-case assistance for grassroots projects for low-cost housing, agricultural assistance, education orphanages and other grassroots projects, the long obsession of Taiwan diplomats in Asuncion with ties with the ruling elite has made it impossible for Taipei to shake the image of being an “accomplice” of the “corrupt” Colorado regime.

Indeed, Lugo himself stated repeatedly during his campaign that Paraguay must throw off the international image of having been “bought out” by Taiwan for nearly six decades and sharply attacked Duarte for using Taiwan’s assistance in social construction to “bribe” voters.

Chen has succeeded in retaining ties with leftwing governments in Nicaragua and Guatemala based on grassroots assistance, shared commitments for human rights and democracy and the growing concerns of Latin American progressives that the PRC is becoming a new imperialist power, but most progressive forces and Paraguayan citizens remain unaware that of Taiwan’s own “change of skies” from the KMT to the center-left DPP eight years ago.

But Lugo’s declaration shows these arguments may lose such of their persuasive power with the imminent restoration of the conservative party of Chiang Kai-shek.

Moreover, Ma’s rash decision to allow KMT vice-president elect Vincent Siew meet with PRC State Chairman Hu Jintao at the Boao Forum earlier this month and Ma’s unthinking and unfair blanket characterization of DPP foreign affairs work as “checkbook diplomacy” are further endangering our ties with Asuncion and threaten to have a grave “domino effect” on Taiwan’s international position.

Whether Paraguay’s new government ultimately chooses to switch from Taipei to Beijing will become an early test of whether Ma’s strategy of putting priority on cross-strait relations with Beijing will lead to a genuine “diplomatic truce” or the effective surrender of our foreign relations and our remaining international space as an democratic independent state.

This editorial neatly lays out the problem that Ma, who was acquitted by the Supremes today in the case involving embezzlement of state funds which he had appropriated for his own use, poses for Taiwan’s foreign policy. If Ma really does stop “dollar diplomacy” then Taiwan has little hope for recognition by any nation — which is probably his underlying intention. Alternatively, Ma’s real intention is to continue the dollar diplomacy but simply claim he is not.