Erdogan voices Turkey's support to Maduro in Caracas

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Russian President Vladimir Putin offered firm support Wednesday for Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro, who is visiting Moscow to shore up political and economic assistance even as his country has been struggling to pay billions of dollars owed to Russia.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, right, embraces Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after a joint press conference at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Dec. 3, 2018.

Turkey this year has become the largest importer of non-monetary gold from Venezuela.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday criticized sanctions on Venezuela during a visit to Caracas, while President Nicolas Maduro defended the country's right to export gold after USA sanctions last month targeted its shipments of the metal.

In the framework of Erdogan's visit, Venezuela and Turkey signed a series of cooperation agreements on energy, mining, and commercial and maritime transport.

Critics blame two decades of socialist rule, corruption and mismanagement for destroying Venezuela's once-thriving oil industry under the state-run PDVSA. "Trade restrictions and unilateral sanctions do not seem right to us", Erdogan said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin right greets his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro during their meeting at the Novo Ogaryovo residence outside
Russian President Vladimir Putin right greets his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro during their meeting at the Novo Ogaryovo residence outside

The Turkish president added that his "friend" Maduro was facing "manipulative attacks from certain countries and acts of sabotage from economic assassins", in an apparent reference to the United States.

The Venezuelan strongman is in Moscow to whip up support from allies to prop up an economy in freefall. "It is a very wrong thing to do".

Without naming the United States, Maduro decried sanctions and said Venezuela had the right to sell gold.

"Political problems can not be resolved by punishing an entire nation", said the Turkish head of state.

Maduro brought to the meeting his two most powerful Cabinet members: Hezbollah-linked Economic Minister (and former Vice President) Tareck El Aissami and Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez.

Massive inflation and a shortage of basic commodities such as foodstuffs and medicine have forced an estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans to immigrate to other South American countries.

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