MANAGUA, Nicaragua ( Associated Press) – The Nicaraguan government has taken over Taiwan’s former embassy and diplomatic offices, claiming they belong to China.
President Daniel Ortega’s government severed ties with Taiwan this month, saying it only recognizes the mainland government.
Before leaving, Taiwanese diplomats tried to donate the property to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Managua.
But Ortega’s government announced late Sunday that any such donation would be invalid and that the building in the prestigious Managua neighborhood belongs to China.
The attorney general’s office said in a statement that the donation attempt was “a gimmick and gimmick to take back what does not belong to them.”
Taiwan’s foreign ministry condemned the “highly illegal actions of the Ortega regime,” saying the Nicaraguan government violated standard procedures by giving Taiwanese diplomats only two weeks to leave the country.
It says Taiwan “also condemns the Nicaraguan government’s arbitrary obstruction of the symbolic sale of its property to the Nicaraguan Catholic Church.”
Msgr. Carlos Aviles, Vicar of the Archbishop of Managua, told La Prensa newspaper that a Taiwanese diplomat offered the church the property, saying, “I told him there is no problem, but the transfer is still pending trial.”
In early December, the Central American country announced that it officially recognizes only China, which claims that self-governing Taiwan is part of its territory.
“There is only one China,” the Nicaraguan government said in a statement about the change. “The People’s Republic of China is the only legitimate government that represents all of China, and Taiwan is an integral part of China’s territory.”
The move has increased Taiwan’s diplomatic isolation on the international stage, even as the island has stepped up official exchanges with countries such as Lithuania and Slovakia that do not officially recognize Taiwan as a country. Taiwan now has 14 official diplomatic allies left.
China has been poaching Taiwan’s diplomatic allies over the past several years by reducing the number of countries that recognize a democratic island as a sovereign state. China is opposed to Taiwan representing itself in global forums or in diplomacy. The Solomon Islands decided to recognize China in 2019, severing diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
Taiwan portrays itself as a defender of democracy, while Ortega was re-elected in November in what the White House called “pantomime elections.”
“The arbitrary imprisonment of nearly 40 opposition figures since May, including seven potential presidential candidates, and the blocking of political party participation in elections falsified the results well before election day,” US President Joe Biden said in a November statement.
Nicaragua established diplomatic relations with Taiwan in the 1990s when President Violeta Chamorro came to power, defeating Ortega’s Sandinista movement. Ortega, re-elected to power in 2007, has maintained friendly relations with Taipei so far.