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Venezuela: US, EU Guard Democracy Only if It Fits Their Interests – Businessman

© REUTERS / CARLOS EDUARDO RAMIREZDemonstrators clash with security forces while participating in a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government and to commemorate the 61st anniversary of the end of the dictatorship of Marcos Perez Jimenez in Tachira, Venezuela
Demonstrators clash with security forces while participating in a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government and to commemorate the 61st anniversary of the end of the dictatorship of Marcos Perez Jimenez in Tachira, Venezuela - Sputnik International
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The US and its European allies are continuing to step up pressure against the Maduro government and provide support to opposition leader Juan Guaido. Speaking to Sputnik, Erdogan Gunduzpolat, the chair of the Latin America-Turkey Business Development Association, shed light on Western countries' role in the Venezuelan crisis.

The US and EU adhere to democratic principles only when it fits their interests, said Erdogan Gunduzpolat, the chair of the Latin America-Turkey Business Development Association, drawing parallels between Washington and Brussels' reactions towards the ongoing Venezuelan crisis and the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.

"The West is trying to overthrow the legitimately elected Venezuelan president by violating all legal norms", said Gunduzpolat. "If one looks at how the West's relations with the countries of the Middle East, Africa and Latin America have historically evolved, then one sees that Europe's reputation with regard to compliance with international law and human rights is far from being flawless".

An opposition member holds a Venezuelan national flag during a protest march against President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. - Sputnik International
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Therefore, the Western countries' attempts to pin the blame on Venezuela — a sovereign and independent state — for violation of human rights look unconvincing, the businessman pointed out.

"The West cares exclusively about its own interests and protects human rights only when it yields profit", he opined, expressing confidence that "Western forces will not succeed in Venezuela".

On 23 January, Juan Guaido, the head of the disempowered National Assembly of Venezuela, declared himself the interim president of Venezuela. The move was praised by the US, which immediately recognised the self-proclaimed leader.

"Today, I have officially recognised the president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the Interim President of Venezuela", Trump tweeted Wednesday.

​A number of countries rushed to follow Washington's suit, while China, Iran, Russia, Turkey, Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua signalled that they support incumbent Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced Trump's statement as "shocking".

"I am 40 years in politics", the Turkish president said. "And I have always respected the elections. If there is no respect for the will of the people, then it is not democracy, but authoritarianism. Maduro was elected president. That's why I, as a person who believes in democracy, was shocked by Trump's decision".

A supporter of Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido holds a flag while taking part in a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela January 30, 2019. - Sputnik International
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Commenting on the Russia-Turkey consensus on the situation in Venezuela, Gunduzpolat highlighted that while Moscow has maintained close ties with the Latin American country for decades, Ankara has just started to develop cooperation with the continent.

According to the businessman, "Russia and Turkey are on the same page regarding the need to build up cooperation with Latin America".

"We must develop common models of interaction in both economic and strategic areas, laying the same strong foundations for cooperation in the [South American] region as was done in the Middle East", he opined.

How US, EU Reacted to Turkish Coup Attempt, Venezuelan Political Crisis

Referring to the Venezuelan political crisis, Gunduzpolat drew parallels between the ongoing unrest in the Latin American country and the attempted July 2016 coup d'etat in Turkey.

The news about the Turkish unrest emerged in the evening of 15 July 2016 and prompted mixed signals from the US and European states: Washington and EU members seemingly hesitated to express unequivocal support for President Erdogan while the situation was hanging in the balance.

© AP Photo / Emrah GurelTurkey Coup Taksim Square Protestors
Turkey Coup Taksim Square Protestors - Sputnik International
Turkey Coup Taksim Square Protestors

Only on 16 July, the European Commission issued a statement saying that "the EU fully supports the democratically elected government, the institutions of the country and the rule of law".

Earlier, on 15 July, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini merely urged "for restraint and respect for democratic institutions", stressing that Brussels is closely keeping an eye on what was going on in Turkey.

​Similarly, commenting on the ongoing coup, then UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson tweeted on late 15 July that he was "very concerned", adding that the British Embassy on the ground was "monitoring the situation".

​It took two more days for the UK to officially condemn the putschists: "We firmly condemn the attempted coup by certain members of the Turkish Armed Forces," British Prime Minister Theresa May stated.

US Secretary of State John Kerry was the first among the Obama administration to comment on the situation in early hours of 16 July: "I hope there will be stability and peace and continuity within Turkey, but I have nothing to add with respect to what has transpired at this moment", he said. However, the second statement by the White House more specifically stated that "all parties in Turkey should support the democratically elected government".

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The apparent ambiguity of Western leaders sparked vocal criticism from Recep Tayyip Erdogan, especially after US and EU leaders warned him against cracking down against the putschists. "Instead of thanking this nation that quashed the coup in the name of democracy, on the contrary, you are taking sides with the coup plotters", the Turkish president said on 29 July, condemning Washington's unwillingness to extradite cleric Fethullah Gulen, the alleged mastermind behind the coup attempt.

However, when it comes to the Venezuelan turmoil, the US and its European allies reacted more assertively, rejecting the legitimacy of democratically elected President Maduro from the start of the turmoil.

​After Washington threw its weight behind Guaido, Britain, Germany, France and Spain stated on 26 January that they would recognise the self-proclaimed interim president unless snap elections were announced in Venezuela within eight days.

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The same day, Bloomberg broke that the Bank of England had blocked the Maduro government from withdrawing $1.2 billion worth of gold.

Two days later, the Trump administration stepped up the pressure by announcing sanctions against the country's state-owned energy giant PDVSA.

"The path to sanctions relief for PDVSA is through the expeditious transfer of control to the interim president or a subsequent democratically elected government who is committed to taking concrete and meaningful actions to combat corruption", Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated on Monday.

As of yet, the United States, Canada, Israel, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay and Peru have recognised Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela.

Finally, the European Parliament voted to recognise Guaido on 31 January, urging EU member states to follow suit.

The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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