One of the foreign state dignitaries at President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s inauguration ceremony at his posh palace was Nicolas Maduro, president of Venezuela.
Enjoying the nice, extravagant palace banquet Mr Maduro hailed Mr Erdoğan as the “leader of the new multi-polar world.” As Mr Maduro was all smiles with this geographically faraway, newfound comradeship the inflation rate in his country had hit over 40,000 per cent. The IMF says inflation in Venezuela could pass a million per cent this year.
Venezuela, with the world’s largest oil reserves, suffers severe shortages of food and medicine, water shortages and blackouts. When the official rate for the old bolivares to the dollar was 250,000 the market rate was 6 million. As The Economist reminded, Venezuela is the world’s worst-performing economy among countries not at war.
Earlier this year, the 35-member Organization of American States issued a report accusing Mr Maduro’s Venezuela of crimes against humanity including torture, rape and more than 8,000 extrajudicial executions. In a country of about 30 million people, more than 2 million have left their homeland.
Mr Maduro is probably more loved in the distant lands featuring the Crescent and Star than in his own country. Mr Erdoğan passed his best wishes to Mr Maduro in a telephone conversation after a drone assassination attempt on Mr Maduro. Mr Erdoğan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalın, wrote on his Twitter account: “Stay strong mi amigo!”
What brings the leaderships of two countries with no common culture, language, religion, past or geography so close to each other? Common interests? Maybe. Ideology? Maybe. But there is more in common between Mr Maduro and Erdoğan.
Take, for instance, Mr Maduro’s explanation for the miserable shape of an economy with rich oil resources. Mr Maduro says the misery is a plot against Venezuela by “imperialist powers” like America. Sounds familiar? What else? He says America is waging an economic war on Venezuela. Now that is even more familiar to any Turk.
In Mr Maduro’s and Erdoğan’s accounts, Venezuela and Turkey are the two countries in the world America is waging an economic war against. What to do?
“If they have their dollars,” Mr Maduro now has his magic formula, paquetazo rojo – a big red package of economic measures to fight back. And “if they have their dollars,” on this side of the Atlantic, “we have our God.”