Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan weighed in on the struggle in Venezuela to remove dictator Nicolás Maduro on Tuesday, condemning those who support President Juan Guaidó for backing an alleged “coup” seeking to install a “postmodern colonial governor.”
Erdogan made his statement on Twitter, where Guaidó and Maduro have done much of their rhetorical dueling. Erdogan has become one of Maduro’s most vocal supporters and was one of the few world leaders to accept Maduro’s inauguration in January as legitimate. Maduro “won” re-election last May in an election featuring rampant fraud and only other Marxist candidates.
“We, as a country which has experienced coups and their negative consequences, condemn the coup bid in Venezuela,” Erdogan said on Twitter, according to a translation by the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet. “Those who attempt to appoint a postmodern colonial governor to Venezuela, where the people are sovereign and where President comes through elections, should know only democratic elections determined the way to govern the country.”
Darbelerle mücadele etmiş, darbelerin yarattığı olumsuz sonuçları yaşamış bir ülke olarak, Venezuela'daki darbe girişimini kınıyoruz. Tüm dünya Venezuela'da halkın demokratik tercihlerine saygı duymak zorundadır.
— Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (@RTErdogan) April 30, 2019
Maduro’s regime, through its Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, thanked Erdogan for his support. “We appreciate President of Turkey [Erdogan’s] firm position and clear support for international rights and peace and respect for the democracy of Venezuela,” Arreaza said on Twitter, publishing a Spanish-language translation of Erdogan’s statement.
Arreaza is one of Maduro’s most long-standing operatives and son-in-law to the late dictator Hugo Chávez.
Erdogan – along with the leaders of China, Russia, and Cuba – has become one of the more consistent voices supporting Maduro, despite his regime’s flagrant human rights violations and its socialist policies turning Venezuela into a failed state. In January, following a stern condemnation of Maduro from the United States, Erdogan urged President Donald Trump to reconsider.
“I was shocked by Trump’s attitude [to the situation in Venezuela]. It is necessary to respect the person who won the election. We are coming out against any anti-democratic actions,” Erdogan said at the time. “If Maduro takes a tough stance … I believe the Venezuelan people will back their elected president.”
Erdogan was speaking shortly after the inauguration of President Guaidó, which the federal legislature, the National Assembly, has the constitutional authority to do. By refusing to vacate the presidential palace and attempting to use the military to force Guaidó out of power, Maduro is engaging in a coup plot.
Prior to Guaidó’s rise to the presidency, Erdogan invested heavily in Venezuela. In December, Erdogan announced that he had signed a set of trade deals with Maduro for, among other things, access to Venezuela’s vast gold wealth. In exchange, the Turkish president said “we will cover most of Venezuela’s necessities” and help “improve the business environment” in a country severely lacking food and medicine and experiencing the largest exodus in the history of the Western Hemisphere.
Maduro also allowed Erdogan to begin planning the construction of a mosque in Caracas, which aids Erdogan’s mission to bring Islam into the mainstream in Latin America. Erdogan has claimed in the past that Muslims discovered America before the arrival of Christopher Columbus and has spent years failing to convince the communist government in Cuba to build a new mosque there.
In exchange for access to Venezuela’s resources, Maduro has also brought Maduro deeper into the fold of the international community. As president of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Erdogan invited Maduro to a summit of the group he called last year to condemn President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“Maduro’s participation in the extraordinary summit of the Islamic Cooperation Organization on Jerusalem is a powerful message to the world,” Erdogan said. “This is a time where there is a lot of Islamaphobia around the world, so President Maduro’s support is very important to teach the world about acceptance.”
Maduro is currently facing the most significant challenge to his authority yet. Early Tuesday, Guaidó – standing alongside now-freed political prisoner Leopoldo López – announced that the nation’s military had officially accepted him as their commander in chief and would no longer take orders from Maduro. He encouraged Venezuelan civilians to take to the streets nationwide until Maduro left office.
“People of Venezuela, it is necessary that we go out to the street today, to back democratic forces and recover our freedom,” Guaidó said. “Organized and together, move to the [country’s] main military units. People of Caracas, come to La Carlota.”
Maduro responded by sending loyalist forces to the streets to repress peaceful protesters. In one of the more dramatic scenes from Tuesday, Maduro loyalists were caught on video using armored vehicles to plow into a crowd of protesters, reportedly significantly injuring at least one person. The socialist supporters also used tear gas and shot into crowds in Caracas.
According to the Venezuela Penal Forum, an NGO that tracks arbitrary arrests, Maduro’s forces took 119 people into custody yesterday, including 11 adolescents. Injury and death counts remain unconfirmed at press time.