Taiwan to pay for Guatemalan lobbying in U.S., Guatemala says

Taiwan to pay for Guatemalan lobbying in U.S., Guatemala says
Taiwan to pay for Guatemalan lobbying in U.S., Guatemala says Copyright Thomson Reuters 2022
Copyright Thomson Reuters 2022
By Reuters
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GUATEMALA CITY - Taiwan has paid for a lobbying contract to promote Guatemala with U.S. officials, Guatemala's government said late on Monday, just as Beijing's efforts to strengthen its diplomatic foothold in Central America are advancing.

"Guatemala thanks Taiwan for the support that will allow us to enhance the country's position in the United States," the Guatemalan government said in a statement.

Taiwan's embassy in Guatemala did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the contract, which Guatemala said aims to bolster investment, tourism and promote small businesses.

The lobbying contract is with Ballard Partners, a firm headed by Brian Ballard, who the company's website said was a backer of former U.S. President Donald Trump.

According to recent public filings in the United States, the contract is worth $900,000 and should provide consulting and advocacy "related to the United States government, including interactions with United States government officials."

The step follows Nicaragua's announcement last month that it had switched allegiance from Taipei to Beijing, and comments made by the incoming president of Honduras during her election campaign last year that she could do the same.

The lobbying contract also coincides with a period of protracted tension between the Guatemalan government and the United States, which has raised concerns about efforts to battle corruption in the Central American country.

Earlier this month, the U.S. State Department criticized Guatemala after its attorney general's office sought the withdrawal of immunity from prosecution against a prominent Guatemalan judge recognized for her efforts to fight corruption.

Guatemala is one of a dwindling number of countries with diplomatic ties to U.S. ally Taiwan.

Honduran President-elect Xiomara Castro said during her campaign in September that she planned to establish ties with China. Still, after her election in November, her team backtracked and said she wanted to prioritize ties with the United States.

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