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Jan 24 2019

Turks take to social media to express support for Venezuela’s Maduro

Almost all comments posted on Twitter in support of beleaguered Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro using the worldwide trending hashtag #WeAreMaduro on Wednesday came from Turkey

Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president on Wednesday, saying it was the only way to save the country from what he called the dictatorship of Maduro. The United States, Canada, Brazil, Colombia and other U.S. regional allies quickly recognised Guaidó, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called his Venezuelan counterpart to express his support.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Thursday accused the United States of repeatedly interfering with the domestic politics of Venezuela, Anadolu Agency reported. The Turkish minister also said that the current situation in Venezuela could lead to chaos, Anadolu said.

A spokesman for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Ömer Çelik, also criticised Washington for recognising Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela, calling the move an “insult” for the country’s people.

“No country can assign a head of state to Venezuela or any other country,” Çelik said on Twitter.

Ankara and Caracas have established strong ties in the last couple of years, as Turkey has become a major supplier of much needed basic goods to Venezuela struggling against U.S. sanctions. The dealings between the countries include trade in Venezuelan gold worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Erdoğan and Maduro have also forged a friendship over what some experts said their shared perception of being victims of international pressure. 

There were several hashtags used on social media on Wednesday night, but one of them was only used by Turkish Twitter users, according to a data analysis of Akın Ünver, a Turkish academic working on digital politics.

Oktay Saral, an advisor to the Turkish president, was among those using the hashtag, citing the words Erdoğan reportedly said to his Venezuelan counterpart: “My brother Maduro. Stand tall. We stand with you”.

Turkey’s presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın also expressed Ankara’s support to Maduro. “Turkey will maintain its principled stance against all coup attempts under the leadership of President Erdoğan,” Kalın said.

Turkey’s pro-government newspapers used the same hashtag in their reports on Venezuela. Yeni Şafak said Caracas was witnessing a U.S.-backed coup attempt.

Several Turkish accounts using that hashtag shared a speech of Maduro supporting Palestinians and denouncing Israel’s policies.