Erdoğan pledges support to Maduro after U.S. backs opposition rival

Erdoğan phones Maduro after U.S. backs opposition leader

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro in a show of support after U.S. President Donald Trump formally recognised Maduro’s rival as the interim president of Venezuela, Spanish daily El Pais reported on Wednesday.

Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president on Wednesday, a surprise move the 35-year-old said was the only way to save the country from “dictatorship” under Maduro.

The United States, Canada, Brazil, Colombia and other U.S. regional allies quickly recognised Guaidó, prompting a defiant response from Maduro, who accused Washington of trying to rule Venezuela.

Amid a day of heated developments, Erdoğan was among the first foreign leaders to make a show of support for Maduro.

The Venezuelan president said during a speech that he had received a call from Erdoğan, who he said had encouraged him to move forward and extended Turkey’s support to his government.

Ankara has been an important backer for Maduro, supplying much needed basic goods including food amid shortages.

The dealings between the countries include trade in Venezuelan gold worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The transfer of such a high volume of gold trade from Switzerland to Turkey has raised suspicions Ankara is facilitating a mechanism to move Venezuelan cash past U.S. sanctions.  

Maduro was inaugurated as elected president for a second term this month, though the 2018 presidential elections were marred by an opposition boycott and reports of vote buying and other practices emerged throughout the campaign.

The Venezuelan’s reign since the death of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, has coincided with sustained economic downturn that has led to shortages of basic goods and periods of serious protest.