Latin American Left's Strong Endorsement of Erdogan

June 7, 2023
by İmdat Öner, published on 7 Juni 2023
Latin American Left's Strong Endorsement of Erdogan

President Erdogan's recent re-election victory in Turkey's runoff election against his main opposition candidate, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, has garnered widespread attention. What is particularly intriguing is the show of support for Turkey’s conservative politician Erdogan from leftist leaders in South America, including Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, Lula da Silva of Brazil, and Evo Morales of Bolivia.

Brazilian President Lula da Silva, in a congratulatory message, expressed his support, emphasizing that Erdogan can rely on Brazil for global cooperation towards peace and the eradication of poverty. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro celebrated Erdogan's triumph as that of a "brother and friend," underscoring the depth of their relations. Evo Morales also extended his congratulations to Erdogan, referring to him as his "brother" in recognition of his victory. Additionally, the Brazilian communist party marked Erdogan's election triumph by sharing a tweet that claimed the defeat and loss of control of imperialism in the Middle East. This endorsement from the Latin American left was not limited to mere congratulatory messages, as President Maduro and Prime Minister of Cuba Marrero Cruz personally attended the ceremonial proceedings in Turkey. This unexpected but strong support from leftist leaders, who would ideologically align more closely with Erdogan's opponent, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, a left-leaning candidate, raises compelling questions about their underlying motivations.

One key factor that contributed to the resonance of Erdogan's message with leftist leaders in Latin America is his anti-Western and multipolar worldview, which he has actively cultivated in his foreign policy. Particularly since 2013, when Turkey's relations with the West has become strained, Erdogan has increasingly embraced an anti-establishment and anti-Western narrative. He positioned himself as a political outsider, advocating for an anti-systemic discourse and challenging the existing structure of the international system. Erdogan's anti-hegemonic and anti-status quo mindset is particularly evident in his slogan, "The world is bigger than five," referring to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Latin American leaders share Erdogan's criticism of Western hegemony and view it as an impediment to their own regional and national aspirations. Various Latin American leaders hold the belief that the world has undergone significant transformations since the conclusion of the Cold War, and they no longer perceive the world as divided into rigid "systems" or "power blocs." They consider the existing Western-led world order as favoring the interests of global powers at the expense of developing nations. In this context, Erdogan's anti-establishment rhetoric and his anti-systemic positioning as a political outsider align with the perspectives of these Latin American leaders. Maduro, for instance, has hailed Erdogan as the "leader of the new multipolar world."

The convergence of anti-establishment, anti-Western, and multipolar worldviews provides a foundation for dialogue and cooperation between Erdogan and Latin American leaders. Under Erdogan’s rule, Turkey has rejected unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States against countries like Venezuela and Cuba. Turkey has extended support to the Maduro government and increased cooperation with Cuba, despite the U.S. embargo. Evo Morales' visit to Turkey in 2019 amid mounting pressure from the United States further exemplifies the shared determination to challenge Western hegemony and explore alternative avenues for cooperation and development. While each country's specific contexts and circumstances may differ, the general sentiment of challenging Western hegemony and pursuing alternative avenues for cooperation and development creates a basis for common ground between Erdogan and Latin American leaders.

Another factor strengthening the bond between Erdogan and Latin American leaders is their shared perception of Western involvement in domestic problems. The failed coup attempt against Erdogan in 2016 likely resonated with Maduro, reminding him of the assassination or so-called coup attempt in Venezuela. Similarly, Lula in Brazil drew parallels between the protests in Brazil in 2016 and the Gezi protests in Turkey in 2013, considering them as part of the same foreign plot to destabilize their respective governments. This perception of Western involvement in their internal affairs further solidifies the bond between these leaders and Erdogan, as they see themselves as victims of similar attempts to undermine their positions of power.

Erdogan's anti-Western and anti-status quo worldview continues to reshape Turkey's foreign relations. While this approach may risk losing some of its Western allies, it has garnered support and resonance among leaders in the Global South, particularly in Latin America. As Erdogan enters his new term, it is important to follow these dynamics of Turkey's foreign policy, particularly in relation to Latin America.

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