Iran joins Turkey, Russia in support of Venezuelan president
TUNIS - Iran has come to the defence of embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and denounced the deadly protests in Venezuela, saying the opposition’s claim that it holds the presidency is a “coup” and an attempt to take over power unlawfully.
Violence flared once again January 23 during large protests across the country, and at least seven deaths were reported in the escalating confrontation with Maduro, who has been increasingly criticized by many nations including the United States, Canada and the European Union.
Congress leader Juan Guaido turned up the heat by declaring himself interim president before a mass of demonstrators in Caracas, saying it is the only way to end Maduro’s “dictatorship.”
The US, Canada and many Latin American countries quickly announced support for Guaido.
Maduro fired back by breaking relations with the US and ordering its diplomats out, but Washington has ignored the order.
President Donald Trump has promised to use the “full weight” of US economic and diplomatic power to push for the restoration of Venezuela’s democracy.
In response to the outpouring of western support for the opposition, long-time Maduro supporter Iran joined Russia, Turkey and Mexico in rebuking Guaido and his supporters.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told reporters in Tehran that the “Islamic Republic of Iran supports the government and people of Venezuela against any sort of foreign intervention and any illegitimate and illegal action such as an attempt to make a coup d’etat.”
Ghasemi also condemned what he said is an open and illegal intervention in Venezuela by the US and added that he hopes the Venezuelan people will overcome their political rifts and problems through peaceful and legal means.
Russian officials and senior lawmakers have reacted angrily to the opposition protests that support Guaido’s claim to the presidency.
For months Russia has been propping up Maduro, who took office for a second term earlier this month, with arms deliveries and loans. Maduro visited Moscow in December, seeking Russia’s political and financial support.
“It’s impossible to imagine that this was spontaneous,” said Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the information committee at the Russian Federation Council, referring to the opposition protests. “That was a pre-planned action, and it was certainly coordinated by the US.”
Pushkov also warned that the showdown between Maduro and Guaido “could lead to a civil conflict, even civil war.”
According to a senior official in Turkey, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called Maduro to voice his support. And presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin tweeted early Thursday that Erdogan told Maduro: “’My brother Maduro! Stay strong, we are by your side.’”
Kalin added that Turkey, under Erdogan’s leadership, would “maintain its principled stance against coup attempts.”
Turkey has cultivated close economic and political ties with Maduro, and during a visit to Venezuela in December, Erdogan criticized US sanctions on the crisis-ridden country.
Tensions began in Venezuela in 2014 when hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets to protest high levels of criminal violence, inflation and prolonged scarcity of basic goods resulting from policies created by the government.
Despite years of widespread civil unrest, Maduro has been able to stifle dissent and remain in power. Since 2014, Human Rights Watch has documented hundreds of cases of mistreatment of government opponents, which include at least 31 accounts of torture.
He even managed to win a second term in office in May 2018, though numerous reports at the time pointed to coercion, fraud and electoral rigging.