Turkey, Russia and China defended Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro Thursday, in sharp contrast to a U.S. declaration that he no longer leads the South American nation.
The affirmation came a day after U.S. President Donald Trump said the United States no longer recognizes Maduro as Venezuela’s president. Instead, he said, National Assembly President and opposition leader Juan Guaido is now considered the “interim president” of Venezuela.
“We are with you,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Maduro in a phone call. “Stay strong, we are by your side. As a country that believes in democracy … wherever in the world there is a coup attempt, we stand against them all without distinction. Everyone has to respect the result of the ballot boxes.”
The Trump administration argues Maduro’s election victory last year wasn’t legitimate because opponents boycotted the vote. Trump said Guaido will be considered interim leader until new elections are held.
“The United States will take appropriate actions to hold accountable anyone who endangers the safety and security of our mission and its personnel,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added in a statement.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told news channel A Haber Thursday it’s “very strange” Guaido declared himself president and was recognized by other countries.
“This situation may lead to chaos,” he said.
Turkey, which refines Venezuelan gold, isn’t the only nation supporting Maduro. Russia also offered words of support and a warning for the United States.
“We warn against this,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said. “We believe that this would be a catastrophic scenario that would shake the foundations of the development model we see in the Latin American region.”
“We consider attempted usurpation of power in Venezuela as … a breach of the foundations of international law,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “Maduro is the legitimate head of state.”
Alexei Pushkov of the Russia Federation Council’s information committee said Guaido’s effort is “an attempted coup” backed by the United States.
“It’s impossible to imagine that this was spontaneous,” he said on state-run television. “That was a pre-planned action and it was certainly coordinated by the United States.”
Russia deployed two bombers to Venezuela last month, prompting Pompeo to accuse the countries of “squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer.”
Chinese officials said other nations shouldn’t interfere in Venezuelan affairs and Beijing supports the country’s efforts to be independent and sovereign.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres encouraged diplomacy on both sides.
“What we hope is that dialogue can be possible, and that we avoid an escalation that would lead to the kind of conflict that would be a disaster for the people of Venezuela and for the region,” he said.