Nicaraguan nationals in Taiwan were saddened and shocked by their government's announcement last week that it was cutting diplomatic ties with Taiwan, and students in particular were worried about their futures.
For some, it was hard to accept because of the help Taiwan has provided Nicaragua during the decades-long relationship; for others, it meant a possible end to their stays in Taiwan should their scholarships be terminated.
CNA contacted several of them to get their opinion on the situation, and those who agreed insisted on anonymity, fearing possible reprisals to themselves if they have to go home or to their relatives in Nicaragua, given the government's campaign to stamp out all dissent.
"Taiwan is the safest place. In Taiwan we have found hope and a new, different way of life," said one Nicaraguan student on Monday, who came to Taiwan on a scholarship offered by Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) because of its democratic credentials.
"That was my goal, that one day I can come back home and apply the knowledge I learn in Taiwan to make a change in Nicaragua, to apply all the good practices that I see here, from a real democratic country," he said.
His dream of getting a degree in Taiwan may never be realized now after Nicaragua decided to switch recognition to Beijing a month after President Daniel Ortega won a fourth consecutive term in an election widely criticized as neither free nor fair.
Many of the 91 Nicaraguans studying at universities in Taiwan face the same uncertain future.
At least 53 of them are on Taiwan government scholarships granted by MOFA, while some are on scholarships funded by the Taiwan International Corporation and Development Fund (TaiwanICDF), a MOFA affiliate, according to the Ministry of Education.
As of Monday, MOFA had yet to decide whether to suspend the scholarships it has granted to Nicaraguan students.
But in similar diplomatic splits that occurred in recent years, the scholarships for students from the countries that broke ties with Taiwan have been withdrawn, leaving each university to decide if it would extend a scholarship of its own.
According to the Nicaraguan student, school authorities in Taiwan have yet to offer any concrete assistance and have simply reiterated that they are waiting for MOFA's decision on the scholarships.
Making things worse is that Nicaragua's embassy is not offering any help to people like himself who have been left in limbo following the announcement of the diplomatic switch.
He said he sent the embassy a message after hearing the news, but so far neither he nor other Nicaraguans who have asked for help have received a response.
The embassy has also deleted its Instagram account and cut off contacts with the outside.
"They are ghosting us," the student said, wishing that the situation had not come to this.
He said he and many of his countrymen currently studying in Taiwan do not support their government's decision to ditch Taipei for Beijing.
"We live here and have been here enough time to know that Taiwan is truly an independent, democratic country," he said.
But given that the decision has been made, he appealed to Taiwanese authorities to give Nicaraguan scholarship recipients like him a chance to finish their education so they can return to Nicaragua and tell people that they fulfilled their dream despite the switch thanks to Taiwan.
Meanwhile, a Nicaraguan national who has been in Taiwan for a decade told CNA on Sunday that he was very sad when he heard the news because Taiwan has been very helpful to his countrymen for decades.
"I guess China is offering something that Taiwan can't," said the man, who is in his late 20s and works for a biotech company in Taipei. He is part of a small community of about 50 Nicaraguans working in the private sector here.
The man said he believed the decision was also made because the Ortega administration is eyeing China's market, especially after the U.S. threatened to sanction Nicaragua in response to Ortega's re-election in a vote that Washington denounced as a sham.
He told CNA that since the announcement he has received phone calls from friends and family back home who were worried that the decision could affect his stay in Taiwan, but he said it would have more of an impact on Nicaraguan students.
Another Nicaraguan currently working in Taiwan at a trading company expressed dissatisfaction with the Nicaraguan embassy for its disappearing act after the diplomatic switch.
"The embassy should reach out to us, tell us what to do next," said the man, who was not as worried about how the cutting of formal ties would affect his career as he was about the students.
The termination of diplomatic relations between Taiwan, officially named the Republic of China, and Nicaragua leaves the country with 14 diplomatic allies worldwide.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel