So much for trying to keep an ally.
Nicaragua has elected to join the larger and more powerful China. The announcement marks Taiwan’s first diplomatic break since it broke away from the United States at the end of the Cold War.
“Nicaragua has no choice. Nicaragua cannot live with the Taiwan issue,” said Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega in his address Friday night to lawmakers. “Or rather, Nicaragua must not stay in a camp where it does not belong.”
In the 1990s, Nicaragua was one of the world’s most fiercely anti-Communist countries — a patron of Cuba, and a staunch critic of the Communist regime in Beijing. But over the past 20 years, Ortega’s relationship with the mainland has undergone a transformation as a trade deal with China has been rapidly improved.
Last year, the signing of one billion U.S. dollars worth of official reciprocal trade between the two countries saw Nicaragua become the fastest-growing market for Chinese goods in the region — with $23.67 billion worth of goods imported.
Since then, the popularly elected Ortega, a leftist who has been in power since 2007, has gone from a defiant revolutionary who booted out the military from Taiwan in 2000, to something closer to President Xi Jinping’s Communist Party.
The transition was facilitated by Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou — who was greeted by a handful of Nicaraguan citizens waving Chinese flags during his 2008 trip to Managua, and was for a time surprisingly well-liked in that country.
But the shift of relations was not inevitable, as Taiwan still has diplomatic allies around the world.
The move, while sudden, does not appear to have surprised the United States. Under a “one China” policy, the United States sees Taipei as a free country that should be allowed to chart its own course without any interference from the powerful mainland.