Feb 23 2019

Venezuelan opposition leader Guaido claims top gov't officials staying in Turkey

Reports in Venezuela that top-level government officials, including Minister of Industries and National Production Tareck El-Aissami, are nowhere to be seen have sparked rumours in opposition circles that the officials are in Turkey.

El-Aissam visited Turkey in January when he met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The minister arrived in Turkey along with Turkish businessman Ahmet Ahlatçı, CEO of Ahlatçı Holding and some on social media are alleging that he along with others are preparing to stay abroad in case the government of embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro falls.

High-level officials of the Maduro regime have already left for Turkey, the country’s opposition leader and Interim President Juan Guaidó said in a Twitter message on Saturday.

"We are coming with tonnes of help, while the usurpation today only has to account for murders in the estate of Bolívar, soldiers who don’t recognise them and high-level officials who condemn them have already left for Turkey,'' Guaidó wrote.

High-ranking officials in Turkey is likely a reference to El-Aissami, critics said.

Erdoğan has been a vocal supporter of Maduro, who is facing a U.S-imposed economic war and violent destabilisation campaign.

Turkey continues to set up joint ventures with the Venezuelan government for gold and coal exploration and has started investing in the country’s oil industry.

Erdoğan also said during a campaign speech on February 12 that he had met with the Venezuelan officials who highly praised the central province of Çorum's gold industry.

“We will take Çorum’s gold trade to the next level,” Erdoğan said. 

Many posts on social media platform Reddit on Saturday have been discussing El Aissami's fate.

Russian Sputnik news on Friday reported that El-Aissami visited Moscow for a series of meetings, citing diplomatic sources.

Meanwhile, trucks carrying humanitarian help already left for Venezuela from the collection centre in Tienditas on the Colombian side of the border.

They contain 280 tonnes of humanitarian help sent by different countries who recognise Guaidó as the legitimate interim President of Venezuela.

Guaidó also informed that the first shipment had entered the country through the Brazilian border.

There are reports that Maduro on Saturday closed the airspace of the embattled country to commercial flights.

Saturday also saw reports of a Turkish jet from Moscow descending for Caracas.

The SBK Holding Bombardier Global Express XRS TC-YYA landed in the Venezuelan capital amid reports of the country’s airspace being closed to commercial traffic.

Turkish SBK holdings company is owned by businessman Sezgin Baran Korkmaz and was implicated in a billion-dollar fraud scheme involving Jacob and Isaiah Kingston, two Utah-based brothers who areare facing federal charges of fraud and money laundering.