A viral video showing Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro feasting on a steak prepared by a celebrity chef at a time many in his crisis-racked nation are going hungry has provoked fury from opponents of the embattled socialist leader.
Maduro visited the famed Nusr-Et steakhouse in Istanbul when he stopped over briefly in Turkey on the way home from a trip to China to raise investment.
In the videos, he can be seen puffing on a cigar from a personalized box while he and first lady Cilia Flores watch owner Nusret Gökçe, in dark aviator glasses and a tight black T-shirt, cut into a steak in flamboyant fashion.
Gökçe, a world renowned restaurateur better known by his nickname “Salt Bae”, posted the videos on his Instagram account, which has 16 million followers. His other videos show him serving customers like Diego Maradona and posing as Don Corleone from the Godfather movies.
Gökçe later deleted the images and a thank you post to Maduro.
The Florida Republican senator Marco Rubio, a fierce critic of Maduro, piled on, noting that Gökçe also has a restaurant in Miami, home to the largest population of Venezuelan immigrants, most of them hostile to Maduro.
“I don’t know who this weirdo #Saltbae is, but the guy he is so proud to host is not the President of Venezuela. He is actually the overweight dictator of a nation where 30% of the people eat only once a day & infants are suffering from malnutrition,” Rubio said on Twitter.
A deep economic crisis marked by hyperinflation and widespread food shortages has destroyed Venezuelans’ earning power, with many surviving on less than a $1 a day. Nearly nine in 10 households are living in poverty, according to a 2017 survey by three leading universities.
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