President Tsai Ing-wen, accompanied by Vice President Chen Chien-jen and his wife, presented a decoration to Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benítez and hosted a state dinner in his honor on the evening of October 8. President Tsai expressed hope that Taiwan and Paraguay will continue to enhance bilateral relations and enjoy a strong and lasting diplomatic alliance.
During the decoration ceremony, President Tsai personally conferred Taiwan's highest honor, the Order of Brilliant Jade with Grand Cordon, on President Abdo. At the state banquet that followed, President Tsai said she was delighted to host a banquet for President Abdo, his wife, and his delegation members. She then said it was an honor to represent the government of the Republic of China in presenting the Order of Brilliant Jade with Grand Cordon to President Abdo to recognize his outstanding contributions to the diplomatic friendship between Taiwan and Paraguay.
President Tsai pointed out that President Abdo's relationship with Taiwan can be traced back to his father, Mario Abdo Benítez Sr., who was private secretary to the president of Paraguay and had a very close relationship with Taiwan. Mr. Abdo Benítez Sr. visited Taiwan numerous times, and twice received decorations. The decoration of President Abdo, she said, shows that the friendship between the two countries has passed to a new generation and become stronger over time.
President Tsai mentioned that President Abdo has stated on many occasions that he treasures the long-standing friendship between Taiwan and Paraguay. Not only did he speak up for Taiwan at the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament (held at the United Nations Headquarters) when he was president of the Senate of Paraguay and head of parliament, but even more importantly, he voiced support for Taiwan during his speech at the General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly this year. On behalf of the people of Taiwan, President Tsai expressed sincere appreciation for these gestures, and asked President Abdo to continue to support our international participation.
President Tsai noted that she led a delegation to Paraguay this August to attend President Abdo's inauguration, joining the people of Paraguay to witness the beginning of a new age in national development, filled with hope and possibilities.
President Tsai also pointed out that in his inaugural address, President Abdo proposed his vision for a "completely new Paraguay." The Paraguayan government, he said, will listen to public opinion, show concern for disadvantaged groups, establish judicial fairness, stamp out corruption, and fight drugs. It will also emphasize educational development, create job opportunities, and work hard to strengthen economic development to drive domestic growth to create a "Paraguay that belongs to the people."
President Tsai added that President Abdo has already demonstrated outstanding leadership over the last month or so, and has created a new atmosphere in Paraguay by making fundamental values like clean government, freedom, democracy, human rights, and social justice a priority. These are ideals that Taiwan and Paraguay share, she said, adding that they provide a solid foundation for continued friendship.
Looking to the future, President Tsai emphasized that Taiwan will continue to work hand-in-hand with people from all sectors and political parties in Paraguay to further enhance bilateral ties. This year's National Day theme will be "Taiwan, Together," she said, and we could say the theme for this first visit by Mr. Abdo as president and his wife is "Taiwan and Paraguay, Together" reflecting stronger bilateral relations. Going forward, she said, we will all work together to promote mutual development.
To close her remarks, President Tsai welcomed the visiting delegation members once again, and wished them all a successful and rewarding trip while looking forward to a strong and enduring diplomatic alliance.
President Abdo then began his own remarks by thanking President Tsai for presenting him with the Order of Brilliant Jade with Grand Cordon, and said that this medal and sash will serve as a symbol of the ties that bind Taiwan and Paraguay more closely together, and that he will always act in the spirit of this special honor.
President Abdo pointed out that although Taiwan and Paraguay are poles apart geographically, we share common ideals and a close relationship in many areas. Paraguay is the only country in South America that maintains formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and will continue to support Taiwan's participation in the United Nations system. He expressed hope that in the future Taiwan and Paraguay can transcend the traditional aid program mechanism, and upgrade the bilateral relationship to form a completely new strategic alliance, and pursue a brand new model for bilateral interactions.
President Abdo noted that Paraguay has a sound macro economic structure that provides an investment-friendly environment for Taiwanese firms, as well as a platform to access regional markets. He also expressed gratitude for Taiwan's assistance to Paraguay in the fields of research, technology, and education, and especially for ensuring that the Taiwan-Paraguay Polytechnic University (Universidad Politecnica Taiwan-Paraguay, UPTP) is no longer an unattainable dream.
President Abdo also noted that Taiwan has helped Paraguay to train young talent through a variety of scholarship programs, and said Paraguay will offer one-year scholarships to students from Taiwan so that they can study Spanish in Paraguay. That will promote cultural interaction among young people in both countries that will enhance bilateral relations.
Banquet attendees included Judicial Yuan President Hsu Tzong-li (許宗力) and Mrs. Hsu, Control Yuan President Chang Po-ya (張博雅), National Security Council Secretary-General David T. Lee (李大維) and Mrs. Lee, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) and Mrs. Wu, National Defense Minister Yen Teh-fa (嚴德發) and Mrs. Yen, Education Minister Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮), Overseas Community Affairs Council Minister Hsin-hsing Wu (吳新興), ROC Ambassador to Paraguay Diego L. Chou (周麟) and Mrs. Chou, Paraguayan Ambassador to Taiwan Marcial Bobadilla Guillén and Mrs. Bobadilla, and Nicaraguan Ambassador to the ROC William Manuel Tapia Aleman (head of the foreign diplomatic corps in Taiwan).