China, Turkey and Syria have joined Russia in criticizing the United States for recognizing Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the South American country’s interim president.
Those countries issued strong statements declaring support for beleaguered Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who was sworn in for a second term earlier this month, while others have disputed his legitimacy as his nation faces a deep economic crisis.
“We warn everyone, not just the US, but some others that can entertain these ideas from this type of action,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told CNN’s Frederik Pleitgen in an exclusive interview Thursday.
So far more than a dozen other countries have followed the United States in welcoming Guaido, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil, Costa Rica, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile and Spain as well as the Organization of American States.
But Russia’s allies have firmly rejected those supporting 35-year-old Guaido — who swore himself into office Wednesday and declared that Maduro had been deposed — setting the stage for a struggle for Venezuela’s future both within and outside the country.
Ryabkov told CNN that by recognizing Guaido the United States was “meddling.”
“I truly feel that there are dangerous signs of something going on along these lines,” he added.
“I mean it’s just pouring gas on fire.
“The resort to military power would be catastrophic. … It would be another huge blow to the international system. We face a scenario that may lead to further bloodshed in Venezuela.”
In December, signs pointed to Russia and Venezuela deepening ties as the Kremlin extended a lifeline to the cash-stripped country by agreeing to restructure $3.15 billion of debt payments that it owes Moscow. Venezuela also owes debts to China, oil service providers, airlines and a slew of other entities.
During a conference call with reporters Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated that Russia considered the interference “to usurp power in Venezuela to be illegal and contrary to international law.”
Maduro hit back at Trump’s announcement by cutting ties with the United States and ordering all American diplomats to leave the country within 72 hours, but the White House dismissed the order as “meaningless.”
The United States has requested an open meeting of the UN Security Council on the ongoing crisis in Venezuela on Saturday morning, the US Mission to the United Nations said in a tweet.
Meanwhile, Venezuela’s armed forces pledged allegiance to Maduro on Thursday and accused the far right of installing a “parallel de facto government” and leading a “coup against Venezuela’s democracy.”
With unrest in the streets and foreign powers taking sides, Venezuela has entered an increasingly precarious political crisis, even prompting the UN secretary-general to plead for dialogue to prevent “total disaster.”
Turkey, Syria and Cuba also follow Russia
On Wednesday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Maduro by phone to “stand tall” and that “Turkey stands with you,” Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said, citing Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin.
Kalin tweeted Thursday that under Erdogan’s leadership “Turkey will maintain its principled stance against all coup attempts,” while also sharing the #WeAreMADURO hashtag to show solidarity.
China also expressed support for Maduro on Thursday, citing the Venezuelan government’s “effort in maintaining national sovereign independence and stability.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China hoped other Venezuelan parties would respect the constitutional system and resolve political disputes through dialogue to avoid the escalation of violence.
“We hope to see Venezuela and the United States deal with bilateral relations based on equal treatment, mutual respect and noninterference in each other’s internal affairs,” Hua said during a regular press briefing.
She emphasized China’s opposition to “external interferences in Venezuelan affairs.”
“We note that all sides are firmly opposed to military interventions in Venezuela,” Hua said. “I want to stress that external sanctions and interferences usually only further complicate situations, instead of resolving concrete issues.”
Syria also hit back against the United States in a foreign ministry statement Thursday.
President Bashar al-Assad’s government condemned the American “blatant interference in the affairs … which constitutes a flagrant violation of all the international norms and laws and a brazen attack against the Venezuelan sovereignty.”
In a statement, according to Syria’s official news agency, the government said it supported “the people and leadership of Venezuela in maintaining their sovereignty and to foil the American Administration’s belligerent conspiracies.”
Cuba joined those countries by declaring its unvarying support for Maduro.
“The Revolutionary Government of Cuba strongly condemns and rejects the attempt to impose by way of a coup a puppet government in service of the US in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” the government said in a statement.
However, key US allies such as Mexico have not moved to recognize Guaido.
“Mexico will not participate in the non-recognition of the government of a country with which it maintains diplomatic relations,” Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Wednesday.
“We fully agree with the call of the United Nations that all parts involved in the conflict in Venezuela reduce tensions, make the greatest efforts to avoid escalation and reject any type of political violence.”
Maduro has continued the social welfare programs and price control policies of Hugo Chavez, who steered the country toward socialism before dying in 2013. Through nearly a decade of mismanagement, Venezuela has squandered its oil wealth, leaving the economy in tatters and Latin America reeling from a mass exodus of migrants in search of food and medicine.
The United Nations estimates as many as 3 million Venezuelans have fled since 2014.
CNN’s Patrick Oppmann, Steven Jiang, Jomana Karadsheh, Claudia Dominguez, Hamdi Alkhshali, Radina Gigova, Richard Roth and Jenny Hansler contributed to this report.
By Bianca Britton
China’s Interest in Venezuela
China, the country’s largest foreign creditor, continues to back the Maduro regime, but the mood among Chinese immigrants, whose dreams for happiness and prosperity in Venezuela were smashed by hyperinflation and social unrest under his rule, are mixed.
At its peak, Venezuela’s Chinese population numbered about 400,000 when Maduro became president in 2013, after the death of Chavez, but that number has shrunk rapidly in the past few years, according to those who have returned to China.
The sharp degeneration of Venezuela’s economy is also putting China’s state creditworthiness at risk. The China Development Bank (CDB), a state lender, has poured at least US$37 billion into the country of 30 million people over the past decade, with most of it repayable in oil, Venezuela’s major natural resource.