Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro drew international criticism after a recording surfaced Monday of him eating steaks and smoking cigars at a world-famous steak restaurant in Turkey.
Maduro said he had a “good time” being served by celebrity chef Nusret Gokce, dubbed “Salt Bae,” at the Nusr-Et steakhouse in Istanbul. His visit to the upscale restaurant comes as nearly two-thirds of Venezuelans have reported losing significant amounts of weight amid an ever-worsening food crisis.
Social media users reposted Instagram videos Gokce posted and subsequently deleted of him serving Maduro, who has served as Venezuela’s president since 2013.
Today I decided to stop following @nusr_ett You decided to erase this video but what you did remains. Shame on you! You cheered and served a tyrant responsable for the hunger, malnutrition and death of thousands of Venezuelans!
By the way, he is not a president. He is a dictator! pic.twitter.com/pddjPSEztO
— Marcel Imery (@NachoImery) September 17, 2018
“This is a once in a lifetime moment,” Maduro said as he was being served by Gokce, according to the BBC. The chef’s $1.5 billion international restaurant chain sells individual steaks for up to $275.
Maduro’s visit to the steakhouse came on his way back to Venezuela from a visit to China where he sought to secure funding for his cash-strapped country. (RELATED: Venezuela’s Maduro Heads To China In Search Of Funding)
The videos sparked criticism in Venezuela, where 87 percent of the population currently live in poverty, according to a university study published in February. Some 64 percent of Venezuelans have reported losing a significant amount of weight since the food crisis began in 2015, prompting 2.3 million to flee the country.
“While Venezuelans suffer and die of hunger, Nicolás Maduro and Cilia Flores have a good time in one of the most expensive restaurants in the world, all with money stolen from the Venezuelan people,” tweeted Julio Borges, an opposition leader currently living outside the country out of fear of arrest.
Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American and vocal critic of Maduro, scorned Gokce on Twitter for hosting the Venezuelan president, who he called “the overweight dictator of a nation where 30% of the people eat once a day & infants are suffering from malnutrition.”
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. https://t.co/sSNPK9cAAx
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) September 18, 2018
Maduro addressed his visit to the steakhouse during a televised news conference.
“Nusret attended to us personally. We were chatting, having a good time with him,” he said.
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