Iran’s president backs Venezuela’s Maduro — report

Hassan Rouhani criticizes the US for ‘interventionist’ decision to back opposition leader in favor of embattled president

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks as he submits next year's budget bill to parliament in Tehran, Iran, on December 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks as he submits next year's budget bill to parliament in Tehran, Iran, on December 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s official IRNA news agency said Saturday that President Hassan Rouhani has expressed his support for embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

According to IRNA, Rouhani met with the Venezuelan envoy to Tehran, Carlos Alcala Cordones, and voiced his support for Maduro’s government.

“We believe the people of Venezuela though unity and standing by the government will defuse the pressures by Washington,” Rouhani is quoted as saying.

Rouhani describes what he termed as US intervention in Venezuela’s internal affairs as “very ugly.”

“Americans basically oppose popular revolution and independent nations,” Rouhani said, according to the report.

Iran has been a key supporter of Venezuela’s government since 1999 when the late populist President Hugo Chavez came to power in Caracas.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro gives a press conference at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, amid a political power struggle between him and an opposition leader who has declared himself interim president. (AP/Ariana Cubillos)

Both countries are members of OPEC and have had numerous economic agreements.

Despite support from governments including Iran, Russia, China, Turkey, Belarus, Bolivia, as well as the Palestinian Authority, momentum is growing for Venezuela’s opposition movement led by lawmaker Juan Guaido.

Guaido declared himself interim president last week before tens of thousands of cheering supporters and vowed to end Maduro’s “dictatorship.” His claim to the presidency is backed by the United States and some two dozen other nations, including Israel, Canada, the EU, Australia and most of Latin America.

US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, tweeted Thursday that Maduro and his top advisers should retire to “a nice beach somewhere far away from Venezuela.” Bolton’s talk turned tougher Friday in an interview with conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt in which he warned that it could be a beach area more like Guantanamo.

Maduro remains dug in, blaming the White House for openly backing what he calls a coup to remove him from power and exploit his country’s vast oil wealth. He retains support from powerful allies, but is growing increasingly isolated as more nations back Guaido.

Venezuela’s National Assembly head Juan Guaido speaks to the crowd during a mass opposition rally against leader Nicolas Maduro in which he declared himself the country’s ‘acting president,’ on the anniversary of a 1958 uprising that overthrew a military dictatorship, in Caracas on January 23, 2019. (Federico Parra/AFP)

Maduro on Friday continued a show of might as commander-in-chief that has seen him crisscross Venezuela to oversee military exercises as he vows to defend his socialist government no matter the cost.

The military’s top leadership is backing Maduro, though analysts warn that rank-and-file troops frustrated by their country’s economic and humanitarian crisis may not share that unwavering loyalty.

The opposition’s street protests planned for Saturday are the second such mass action this week. Guaido led a peaceful demonstration Wednesday with residents stepping out of their homes and workplaces for two hours. Last week, street protests turned violent in days of unrest that killed nearly three dozen people in clashes with government security forces.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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