Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay travelled to Venezuela to attend the second inauguration of Nicolas Maduro on Thursday, according to the Venezuelan government website.
The Ahval news website reported that Maduro, who became president in a snap vote after his predecessor Hugo Chavez’s death in 2013, clung to power in elections last May with 68 percent of the vote, despite a desperate economic situation in the country that saw severe shortages of staples and inflation topping 1 million percent last year.
Doubts have been cast on the validity of the election, which had low turnout and was held amid a government crackdown on dissent. However, The New York Times noted that the chaotic situation may have strengthened Maduro’s position in the vote as poor voters were offered much-needed government incentives in the form of food handouts.
While, “a dozen Latin American countries and Canada have rejected the legitimacy of Maduro’s next term,” the socialist president has the support of left-wing governments in Cuba, Bolivia and Mexico, USA Today reported.
Among these socialist and left-wing states, Turkey’s conservative nationalist Justice and Development Party (AKP) government may seem an unlikely addition to Maduro’s list of allies. Yet the two countries have enjoyed close ties in the recent past as both leaders are close allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Maduro and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met last December, providing yet another occasion for the Turkish leader to slam the United States, this time for its sanctions on Venezuela.
In the first nine months of 2018, Turkey imported $900 million worth of Venezuelan gold, one of the items forbidden according to the sanctions. Turkish companies have benefited from the reverse trade to the extent that one of Turkey’s two largest business associations has opened an office in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas.