Skip to main content

Erdogan urges Maduro to 'stand tall'

Turkey’s president remains a strong defender of Venezuela’s embattled leader, calling Nicolas Maduro a democratically elected leader who must be respected.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro attend a news conference after an agreement-signing ceremony between Turkey and Venezuela at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela December 3, 2018. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero - RC15C01C8740

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan kept up support for Venezuela’s tottering strongman Nicolas Maduro today, saying he was a democratically elected leader and needed to be respected as such.

Speaking at a joint news conference in Ankara with visiting Maltese President Marie-Louise Coleira Preca, Erdogan asserted, "If you do not respect election results, then this is not democracy.” Erdogan urged Maduro to keep resisting opposition leader Juan Guaido’s efforts to topple him. “Should Maduro stand tall and continue on the path he believes in, I am certain that the people of Venezuela will stand behind him,” Erdogan said.

Erdogan’s comments followed a phone call to the Venezuelan leader in which he pledged support and referred to Maduro as “my brother.”

The Venezuelan president, who is blamed for the economic meltdown that has impoverished millions in the oil-rich Latin American country, is facing the biggest threat to his rule since being re-elected for a second year term last May in polls that were marred by an opposition boycott and widespread allegations of fraud. The United States, Canada, Latin American heavyweight Brazil, Colombia and Peru are among the countries that recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate president.

Turkey is in the opposite camp alongside Russia and China, highlighting the NATO member’s marked drift toward authoritarianism and like-minded regimes.

In Maduro’s case, however, they are bound by more than a shared tendency to stifle dissent. Erdogan faced down a bloody coup attempt in 2016 that he blames on Fethullah Gulen, the Pennsylvania-based cleric who used to be his top ally until they fell out over the spoils of power. And like Maduro, he sees the United States’ hand in the failed putsch.

The pro-government Yeni Safak was quick to finger the CIA, claiming that it was behind a social media campaign to rally anti-Maduro protesters. “The CIA intervened and millions [of posts] were shared,” the paper charged.

Erdogan, an Islamist, and Maduro, a socialist, seem unlikely bedfellows. Yet Turkey’s Islamists joined hands with the country’s leftists in catapulting tweets hashtagged “WeAreMaduro” to the top trending postings.

Evren Celik Wiltse, an associate professor of political science at South Dakota State University who studies Turkish and Latin American politics, took to Twitter to comment on the apparent contradiction. “I see Turkish Islamists becoming anti-hegemonic warriors for Maduro. This sudden leftist turn, yet they can’t even stomach gender equality.”

United by an unremitting suspicion of the West, Turkey and Venezuela have been growing closer in recent years. Nicholas Danforth, an expert on Turkey and a fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, told Al-Monitor, “Erdogan sees himself in Maduro — a democratically elected leader targeted by US economic warfare now facing a coup attempt because he stood up to the West.” Danforth continued, “In this case, Erdogan’s stand resonates with the hostility that many people across Turkey’s political spectrum feel towards American interventions — real and imagined — across the world.” This was on full display when Egypt's first democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi, a fellow Islamist, was overthrown by the general-turned-statesman Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Turkey's relations with Egypt have remained frosty ever since.

Maduro visited Turkey four times in two years, attending Erdogan’s inauguration ceremony in June and returning in September.

Erdogan reciprocated in early December. Turkey has become a major importer and refiner of Venezuelan gold, prompting worries that some of it is winding up in Iran’s coffers. Venezuela exported $900 million worth of gold to Turkey in the first three quarters of 2018, according to an in-depth report by Politico.

Turkey’s aid agency TIKA provides humanitarian supplies flown in by Turkish Airlines, one of the few Western carriers that continue to operate flights to Caracas.

According to Venezuelan media reports, 69% of food in ration boxes distributed to the poor comes from Turkey. Wiltse told Politico, “For all the humanitarian aid, [Turkey] is also extending a lifeline to a regime that should have or could have collapsed if it wasn’t for that lifeline.”

Turkey’s embrace of the likes of Maduro and Putin, however, also exposes the difficulties facing Erdogan’s foreign policy going forward. “Can Turkey continue to align itself with those who seek to challenge or resist the West while staying on functional terms with Turkey’s Western partners?” Danforth asked. “Can Erdogan resist US hegemony while still benefitting from it?” His passionate defense of the embattled Venezuelan leader suggests he may be feeling the heat.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Already a Member? Sign in


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial
What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

Already a Member? Sign in

Turkey Briefing Turkey Briefing

Turkey Briefing

Top Turkey stories in your inbox each week

Trend Reports

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (4th R) attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (3rd L) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on February 22, 2019. (Photo by HOW HWEE YOUNG / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read HOW HWEE YOUNG/AFP via Getty Images)

From roads to routers: The future of China-Middle East connectivity

A general view shows the solar plant in Uyayna, north of Riyadh, on March 29, 2018. - On March 27, Saudi announced a deal with Japan's SoftBank to build the world's biggest solar plant. (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)

Regulations on Middle East renewable energy industry starting to take shape

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial