Turkey to host Venezuelan minister despite U.S. pressure

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza will visit Turkey on Monday to discuss bilateral relations between Ankara and Caracas, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.

The visit comes the day after local elections in Turkey and as U.S. pressure on Turkey intensifies for it to halt support for embattled President Nicolas Maduro. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a strong backer of Maduro, depicting efforts to unseat him and an economic crisis in Venezuela as a plot by Western powers. Meanwhile, Erdoğan is facing economic problems of his own – the country is embroiled in a deep recession after a currency crisis last year.

U.S. envoy to Venezuela, Elliot Abrams, on Thursday said Erdoğan was “strongly supporting the Maduro regime” and that U.S. officials had “not had the cooperation from Turkey” that Washington had wanted.

On Friday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry backed the Latin American country and said Turkey “is against attempts to replace legitimate governments through foreign intervention.”

The same day, U.S. President Donald Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, said the president was considering secondary sanctions for countries that do business with Maduro.

Turkey has accepted billions of dollars of gold from Venezuela as part of efforts to support Maduro’s government and Erdoğan has pledged to build a factory to refine it.

Venezuela struggled through its third major blackout of March on Saturday. Power went out in most areas of Caracas as the economic crisis worsened. Public anger is rising over recurring blackouts that have left much of the country without electricity for long periods.

The power outage was the talk of the city, overshadowing another round of duelling protests by supporters of Maduro and Juan Guaido, the country’s opposition leader and interim president.

Maduro and his government blame the United States and its allies inside the country, accusing them of sabotaging power plants and the electricity grid.

Erdoğan also blames Washington and other Western powers for Turkey’s crisis, saying they are plotting to unseat his government and to prevent Turkey from becoming a global power.