US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, General H. R. McMaster, has awkwardly dodged a question about Washington’s dual policy regarding the recent political developments in Venezuela and Turkey.
On Monday, the US Treasury Department imposed new financial sanctions on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, a day after the oil-rich nation cast their ballots on electing a new assembly tasked with rewriting the constitution.
During a White House press briefing about the new bans, a journalist asked McMaster whether there was a difference between what happened in Venezuela and a similar attempt by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to expand his constitutional powers a short while back.
“President Trump congratulated President Erdogan on that and he even later came to the US and his people beat protesters in front of his embassy,” the journalist said, referring to a brutal crackdown of anti-Erdogan protesters by the Turkish president’s bodyguards in Washington, DC, on May 17.
McMaster claimed that what happened in Venezuela amounted to an “abrogation” of the constitution but refused to answer the question about Turkey.
“One difference is… you see the end of the constitution of Venezuela and this is happening obviously at an accelerated race,” he said. “And this is happening obviously at an accelerated pace in the recent months in the Maduro regime.”
“But this is a process that has taken really two regimes to really restrict Venezuelan democracy,” he added.
Ignoring the journalist’s calls to address Erdogan’s case, McMaster said the sanctions put Maduro in the same “exclusive club” as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and North Korea’s leader Kim Jung-un.
In April, Ankara held a referendum on changes in the constitution, expanding the powers of Erdogan after 51 percent of voters voted ‘Yes’ in what the opposition called a “fraudulent” election.
The European Union (EU) had warned Turkey that it should either cancel the proposed constitution overhaul or forfeit its request to join the bloc.
Trump, on the other hand, personally called his Turkish counterpart to congratulate him.
With regards to Venezuela, however, Trump had said before the Sunday election that he would not recognize its outcome.