Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, facing his own anti-Islamist resistance at home, called Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro on Wednesday to express his support for the socialist regime and the calls for “dialogue” with the opposition, many of whom Maduro has imprisoned.
The leftist propaganda outlet TeleSur quotes an official joint statement, confirming the phone call and its friendly contents. “President Erdogan called President Maduro to express his solidarity and support with the legitimate, constitutional government of Venezuela,” the statement read, “before violent attempts to destabilize [the country].”
Erdogan reportedly also told Maduro he supported a Vatican-mediated dialogue between the opposition and Maduro’s socialist regime. In October, Pope Francis received Maduro at the Vatican and offered to help bring the anti-socialist opposition to agree to stop protesting the use of violence to suppress political speech, rampant hunger, and lack of access to basic medical care.
While Erdogan and Maduro disagree significantly on policy – Maduro’s Socialist Party (PSUV) has imposed a ration system on the nation’s starving people, while Erdogan’s free market approach has boosted the Turkish economy – their attitude towards democratic opposition has proven similar. In Venezuela, Maduro has used the nation’s Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) to arrest democratically elected officials, beat unarmed dissidents, and kill underaged protesters. In Turkey, Erdogan recently arrested the heads of the main center-left opposition party, along with a dozen other members of Parliament, on vague “terrorism” charges.
The two heads of state met in October in Istanbul, where Maduro met both Erdogan and Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan as part of the World Energy Congress summit. Erdogan personally invited Maduro to the presidential palace, where they eventually signed a trade agreement:
Extraordinaria jornada de trabajo con el Presidente de Turquía…hemos decidido ampliar las relaciones e inversiones entre nuestros países.. pic.twitter.com/tjidfOuu9w
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) October 10, 2016
Erdogan announced following that visit that he expected to return the favor; he plans to visit Venezuela in January or February of 2017.
In January 2016, Erdogan made a separate trip to Latin America to entrench Turkish economic influence in the region. Erdogan visited Peru, Ecuador, and Chile, all run by leftist leaders at the time. (Peru has since elected a center-right economist, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, as its head of state.) “With its opening to Latin America, Turkey appears to want to forge new alliances in new regions at a time of tricky ties with the United States, the European Union and Russia,” Agence France-Presse reported at the time.
Erdogan also maintains friendly relations with the communist dictatorship of Cuba. For years, Erdogan attempted to convince the Castro regime to allow Turkey to fund the construction of a new mosque on the island, falsely claiming that Muslims, not the Spanish empire, discovered America, and a mosque in Cuba was a historical necessity. Erdogan’s pitch to the atheist autocracy failed.
While Maduro has expressed respect to Erdogan to his face, he has indicated that he considers himself a more forceful and masculine leader than the Turkish strongman. “Did you see what happened in Turkey?” Maduro asked in August, following the failed coup against Erdogan. “Erdoğan will seem like a nursing baby compared to what the Bolivarian revolution will do if the right wing steps over the line with a coup.”