ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan phoned Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to offer support, and said on Thursday he was shocked that Washington had backed the opposition leader’s move to declare himself interim leader.
Socialist Maduro described Juan Guaido’s move a day earlier as a coup attempt. U.S. President Donald Trump recognised Guaido, as did Canada and right-leaning Latin American governments.
“You will respect the results of elections. Trump’s remarks shocked me, as someone who believes in democracy,” Erdogan told a news conference in Ankara.
“I called Maduro on the way back from Russia. I told (him) very clearly ‘Never allow anti-democratic developments. Stand tall’,” he said.
Turkey has a long history of coups, most recently a failed putsch in 2016, thwarted by Erdogan supporters who took to the streets to fight the putschists. About 250 people were killed.
Economic and political ties between Ankara and Caracas have grown stronger, with Erdogan criticising sanctions against Venezuela during a visit there last month, without directly mentioning the United States or President Donald Trump.
Erdogan flew back on Wednesday night from a visit to Russia, which has also come out in support of Maduro.
On Wednesday, Trump said he would use “the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy” after recognising Guaido as interim president and calling Maduro “illegitimate”.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the United States and other Latin American countries have constantly meddled in Venezuela’s internal affairs.
“There is an elected president and on the other hand the head of congress declares himself de facto president. Some countries recognised this. This may cause chaos,” Cavusoglu told the A Haber news channel.
Many Turks voiced support for Maduro on social media using the hashtag, #WeAreMaduro. One posted an image of Maduro picking up a small Turkish flag and another one of him holding the flag of a historic Turkish clan.
“You’re not alone, big-hearted man. Turkey is with you,” another wrote.
Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun and Ece Toksabay; Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Andrew Heavens