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Turkey's Erdogan voices support for embattled Venezuelan President Maduro

Erdogan reportedly said: Maduro brother, stand tall, Turkey stands with you [AP]

Date of publication: 24 January, 2019

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has voiced support for embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro after the US recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has voiced support for embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro after the US recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president.

Erdogan said: “Maduro brother, stand tall, Turkey stands with you, Erdogan tells President Nicolas Maduro by telephone,” according to Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin's on Twitter late on Wednesday.

Kalin shared the #WeAreMADURO hashtag to show solidarity on Twitter.

In a seemingly coordinated action, the U.S led a chorus of Western hemisphere nations, including Canada, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia, that immediately recognised Guaido, who is leader of the National Assembly, with President Donald Trump calling on Maduro to resign and promising to use the “full weight” of the US economic and diplomatic power to push for the restoration of Venezuela’s democracy.

“The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law,” Trump said in a statement.

The stunning move, which to some harkened back to dark episodes of heavy-handed U.S. interventions in Latin America during the Cold War, drew a strong rebuke from Maduro. He responded by swiftly cutting off diplomatic relations with the United States, the biggest importer of the OPEC nation’s oil, giving American diplomats 72 hours to leave the country.

“Before the people and nations of the world, and as constitutional president. …. I’ve decided to break diplomatic and political relations with the imperialist U.S. government,” Maduro thundered while holding up a decree banning the diplomats before a crowd of red-shirted supporters gathered at the presidential palace.

“Don’t trust the gringos,” he said, rattling off a long list of U.S.-backed military coups — Guatemala, Chile, Brazil — in decades past. “They don’t have friends or loyalties. They only have interests, guts and the ambition to take Venezuela’s oil, gas and gold.”

Not to be undone, Guaido issued his own statement, urging foreign embassies to disavow Maduro’s orders and keep their diplomats in the country. A few hours later, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States would abide by Guaido’s directive and ignore Maduro’s order to withdraw its diplomats.

The 35-year-old Guaido, a virtually unknown lawmaker at the start of the year, has reignited the hopes of Venezuela’s often beleaguered opposition by taking a rebellious tack amid a crushing economic crisis that has forced millions to flee or go hungry.

Amid the showdown, all eyes were on the military, the traditional arbiter of political disputes in Venezuela — and to whom Guaido has been targeting his message.

Maduro, who lacks the military pedigree of his mentor and predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, has sought to shore up support from the armed forces by doling out key posts to top generals, including heading the PDVSA oil monopoly that is the source of virtually all of Venezuela’s export earnings. He has also been playing commander in chief, appearing last week at a military command meeting wearing camouflage fatigues and receiving the blessing of the defense minister, Gen. Vladimir Padrino Lopez, who said his troops were prepared to die for Maduro.

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