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Nicaragua’s decision to sever ties with Taiwan is a disturbing development for both the U.S. and the entire Western Hemisphere. Not only does it represent the further corruption of Nicaragua’s Ortega-Murillo regime, but it also points to Beijing’s increased influence in our own backyard.
And yet, it appears that the Biden administration’s foreign policy will continue to undercut America’s national interests. What the United States needs is a real strategy for strengthening democracy and the rule of law in Latin America and countering the malign influence of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
For the past eight years, the CCP has been using its destructive Belt and Road Initiative to expand its control over developing countries across the globe—from Pakistan and Nigeria to Argentina and Venezuela. China uses massive infrastructure loans to lure these nations into economic “deals” that are really debt traps. When the countries are inevitably unable to repay these loans, the only way out is closer ties with the CCP, and in turn, diminished national sovereignty. We saw a prime example of this scheme last month, when Uganda was forced to turn over control of its only international airport to a Chinese state-owned company.
China’s goal in gaining control over developing nations is the creation of its own economic sphere of influence, one that can eclipse the West. It is all part of Beijing’s long-term plan to overtake the U.S. as the world’s superpower and remake the international order in its own authoritarian image. Nicaragua’s decision to cut diplomatic relations with Taiwan is the latest step in Beijing’s attempt to gain power over our hemisphere.
The Ortega-Murillo regime sees the CCP as a better ideological ally than the U.S. because Ortega’s long list of crimes and human rights violations are of no concern to the genocidal regime in Beijing. Ortega also wants continued Chinese funding for the construction of an Atlantic-to-Pacific canal through Nicaragua, which People’s Liberation Army warships can then use to access the Caribbean.
By legitimizing the CCP’s claims to Taiwan, Ortega hopes to attract additional Chinese investment. Ortega will claim this investment helps the people of Nicaragua. However, we know that jobs will be prioritized to imported Chinese workers and profits will go to Ortega and his cronies, all while power shifts to Beijing.
This decision is not surprising, especially after Nicaragua’s sham elections this past November, which Ortega rigged in advance by imprisoning anyone who had a chance of victory. But that makes it no less of a threat to our national security and the stability of our allies in the region. This is not something that’s occurring halfway across the world—it’s a sign of expanding Chinese influence in America’s backyard, right under the Biden Administration’s very nose. And it demands a vigorous response.
Unfortunately, the current administration has not put forth such a response. President Biden claims to support Taiwan and champion freedom. But a few weeks ago, during his virtual Summit of Democracies, the U.S. downgraded Taiwan’s level of participation and censored its representative. Halfhearted State Department criticism of Nicaragua’s break of relations with Taiwan will not be enough to stop the CCP from furthering its authoritarian goals in East Asia, and now in Latin America.
In fact, it’s likely that Biden’s incompetence and catastrophic foreign policy convinced Ortega that now was the perfect time to act. So many of America’s rivals are choosing to move against our interests right now because they know our executive leadership is weak.
We need forceful new efforts to deter the CCP’s plan—efforts like my bipartisan bill with Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) to include Taiwan in the Inter-American Development Bank (S.3090), or my bill with Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) to extend trade benefits with Haiti (S. 3279), one of Taiwan’s key partners. Now is the time for Congress to act. In the coming year, I plan to introduce additional legislation to revitalize our security and economic relationship with the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, to help counteract Beijing’s growing influence.
America needs to take bold actions to advance our interests in our hemisphere and defend our allies from communist aggression. We cannot afford to sit back and watch while the CCP grows stronger in our own backyard.