By Dr Orlando Gutiérrez Boronat
The recent events of violence, death and material destruction in Chile and Ecuador with the intention of destabilizing or overthrowing their legitimately and democratically constituted governments are unequivocal signs of how fragile Latin American democracies still are. Mass protests in Bolivia where Evo Morales tried to perpetuate himself in power, first violating the Constitution and then through electoral fraud indicates a real danger in the region of the loss of democratic governance and the rule of law.
If we add to these realities that Cuba and Venezuela, as well as other sister countries, are under totalitarian tyrannies plagued with corruption and with their people subject to political oppression and material poverty, there is no doubt that serious efforts are needed to support and encourage the democracies that remain in the region. The most symbolic is perhaps Costa Rica. All of these events inevitably affect the Caribbean, its peoples, and its economy, as they closely linked with that of Latin America.
With an overview and recognition of the differences between Latin American countries, a common factor can be identified in many of them; the absence of a comprehensive, affordable, and successful development model that serves as a reference.
Taiwan has a model that turned an island, sparsely populated and underdeveloped, into a successful nation with an enviable economic model, a democratic system of five balanced powers and an open, diverse and integrated society where the fundamental rights of the human being are respected and protected. Its island identity has a special connection with the islands of the Caribbean, showing what is possible irrespective of geography.
In honor of its high and growing social development, Taiwan’s government projects and programs are today comparable to those of the most developed and prosperous nations in the world. The Republic of China in Taiwan has left an exemplary stele of progress and abundance in those countries that have opened the doors, without requiring subordination or loss of sovereignty.
In recent years, Latin America and the Caribbean have unfortunately and paradoxically moved away from Taiwan’s democratic model of sustainable development, and has grown closer to one that represents the People’s Republic of China’s model. The People’s Republic of China constitutes the most powerful totalitarian government on the face of the earth, adverse to the freedoms and democracy essential for Latin America.
During its growth as a nation, Taiwan incorporated various elements of other countries’ civilizations. For that reason, it is today an open and forward-looking society, as the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean should be. Taiwan wishes to thank and reward the international community for the encouragement and support it has received. They would like to make an important contribution to the advancement of the international democratic system because it is convinced that this system generates not only national stability but also international peace, an essential element for all humanity.
Taiwan began showing its willingness to collaborate with other countries in its own region, most notably in Southeast Asia, with the “New Southbound Policy.” The President, Tsai Ing-wen, initiated this policy three years ago in order to establish a future of common prosperity by substituting competition for collaboration. In addition, Taiwan shares with other countries in South Asia the medical and technological advances of its excellent health care system. For example, Vietnamese surgeons successfully performed their first lung transplant last year after receiving training in Taiwan.
Another example of goodwill is Taiwan’s willingness to accept foreign students. In 2019, more than 51,000 students traveled to Taiwan from South Asia to attend the high-level Taiwanese universities. The “New Southbound Policy” includes programs in various branches such as agriculture, prevention of infectious diseases, academic exchange, and tourism, among others.
Latin America and the Caribbean can benefit greatly from this program.
A summary of the statistical figures and the successes achieved by Taiwan in numerous economic, social, political, and cultural lines leave no room for doubt about the value of the Taiwanese Model.
Taiwan is the 6th largest world exporter. It manufactures 75 percent of the Integrated Circuits that are produced in the world (Integrated Circuits constitutes the heart of all electronic equipment). It’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is over $ 573,000 million. Its export value of $ 317,000 million (2017) and imports $ 259,000 million (2017), which allows an annual trade surplus of $ 57,000 million. Its economy grew by 2.8 percent (2017). Taiwan accumulates foreign currency reserves worth more than $ 451,000 million. Annual per capita income is $ 54,000.
Taiwan’s education system is excellent. Education is compulsory up to 12th grade. With only 36,000 square kilometers and with a population of 23 million and a half, Taiwan has 144 universities. Moreover, 45 percent of the Taiwanese population over 15 years of age has a degree of higher education. The talent and work ethic of the Taiwanese workforce is the basis of its economic prosperity.
Culture and the media are in abundance as well. In Taiwan, there are 65 cable television companies, 171 radio stations, 247 newspaper-publishing companies, 1,239 magazine publishing companies, 115 satellite transmission companies, and 32 news agencies.
Roughly, 98 percent of Taiwanese youth have smartphones.
The reunion of Taiwan and our region, without a doubt, can be a new beginning for Latin America and the Caribbean, a land that frequently oscillates between hope and frustration.
Dr Orlando Gutierrez-Boronat is a writer, educator, co-founder and spokesman for the Cuban Democratic Directorate (Directorio).