During a recent state visit to Caracas, a first ever by a Turkish head of state, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan praised his host, President Nicolas Maduro, as sporting a “Bolivarian spirit.” Mr Erdoğan praised Venezuela’s “strong solidarity with the oppressed.”
That was not the first time Mr Erdoğan kindly expressed his sympathies with Mr Maduro who travelled all the way to Ankara to join the festivities inaugurating Mr Erdoğan’s presidential system. The third world solidarity goes on.
Venezuela’s national anthem, “Gloria al Bravo Pueblo” (Glory to the Brave People” looks more like a bad joke today. Bolivar, “El Libertador,” would possibly have chased Mr Maduro up to the country’s tallest peak, Pico Bolivar, had he lived today.
It cannot be guessed which ‘oppressed’ of the world Mr Maduro’s Venezuela has strong solidarity with, but it cannot be with Venezuela’s own oppressed.
Think about a country whose international airport (ironically named after Simon Bolivar) that greets you with latrines at Simón Bolívar overflow with urine, taps that are bone dry and escalators at a halt. At customs, a sticker on one x-ray machine warns: “Here you don’t speak badly about Chávez!”
Since Mr Maduro “embraced his fellow Venezuelans” almost 10 percent of Venezuela’s 31 million-strong population have fled overseas; of those who remain, nearly 90 percent live in poverty. Mr Maduro’s Venezuela proudly holds the title of the most oil-rich country absolutely devastated and turned into a war-torn nation – without a war. Its Economy shrank by 15.7 percent in 2017 and IMF economists predict that the country’s inflation rate will exceed 1,000,000 percent this year, and 10,000,000 percent at the end of 2019. According to a recent survey, about 90 percent of Venezuelans now live in poverty while more than 60 percent admitted to waking up hungry because they lacked the means to buy food.
All the same, for the ruling elite, everything is coming up roses as Socialist party murals remind puzzled Venezuelans: “Chávez vive y la patria sigue!” (“Chávez lives and the homeland goes on!”) Very good.
Bilateral trade between Turkey and Venezuela is an annual $1.063 billion. Of that Turkish exports are a mere $81 million.|Imagine Turkish exporters packing up their goods, shipping them to Venezuela and by the time the Venezuelan banking system wires their money in bolivars and they actually receive the money the Turks might get $5 million (worth of bolivars) instead of $25 million. Who would not want that? And the Turks could help save the Venezuelan economy paying Venezuelan exporters in Turkish liras instead of US dollars.
— Pedro, give me a kilo of milk and two loaves of bread. And a pack of cigarettes.
— Here, Manuel, it’s 4.8 million bolivars.
— Take this.
— What are these banknotes?
— Turkish liras. They are better currency than the dollar. Maduro said that. You don’t believe him?
— Ah, the lira. It’s fine, Manuel. It’s the strongest currency in the world. Who doesn’t know…