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Departing Guatemalan diplomat urged to continue support for Taiwan

2019/06/21 19:52:43

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文, right) and Guatemalan Ambassador to Taiwan Olga Maria Aguja Zuniga/Image taken from the Presidential Office's website.

Taipei, June 21 (CNA) President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Friday expressed the hope that Guatemalan Ambassador to Taiwan Olga Maria Aguja Zuniga will continue to offer Taiwan her strongest support and work to improve bilateral ties despite her planned departure next week.

Aguja is set to return home on June 24 for her new position as a consultant to Guatemala's foreign ministry after serving as her country's ambassador to Taiwan for nearly four years.

Aguja assumed the ambassadorship in August 2015, when Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the Kuominting (KMT) was president.

"For more than three years, Taiwan and Guatemala have seen extremely close interactions. Not only did I pay a state visit to Guatemala, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales also led a delegation to visit Taiwan," Tsai said when meeting with Aguja at the Presidential Office in Taipei.

"These important exchanges between our two countries owed many thanks to Ambassador Aguja's assistance," she said, according to the Presidential Office, which released Tsai's comments but not the comments made by Aguja.

Guatemala was one of the four Central American countries Tsai visited in January 2017, with the others being Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador, which severed ties with Taipei and switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing in August 2018.

In late April this year, Morales also led a delegation that included Guatemalan Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel on a four-day state visit to Taiwan.

Tsai said that thanks to Aguja's promotion of "coffee diplomacy," coffee products from Guatemala have made a name for themselves in Taiwan, with the value of coffee imported from the Central American country to Taiwan reaching a record high of US$12 million last year.

Aguja has also worked to bring Guatemala's local culture to Taiwan by holding art or handicraft exhibitions here, giving the people of Taiwan a better understanding of its diplomatic ally, Tsai said.

The president also extended her gratitude to Aguja for being a staunch partner of Taiwan over the years, having supported the country as it faced grave diplomatic challenges, especially last year.

Taiwan lost three diplomatic allies -- El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Burkina Faso -- in the last year alone.

"Her actions allowed us to deeply feel the strong support coming from our ally," said Tsai, who expressed the hope that Aguja will continue her support for Taiwan and efforts to boost bilateral ties after her departure.

The Embassy of Guatemala in Taiwan told CNA that Aguja handed over her duties on May 31 to the first secretary at the embassy, who will serve as the interim ambassador until Aguja's successor officially takes office.

The embassy said Aguja's successor has been appointed, but the date for him to submit his letter of credence is to be decided by the Taiwanese government.

(By Stacy Hsu)
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