A video of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro dining at the restaurant of a Turkish celebrity chef has led to social media furor, with the head of state accused of living the high life as Venezuelans grapple with food scarcity.
Maduro was in Turkey after touring China and Russia to secure funding for the cash-strapped national oil company PDVSA. Before returning home, the president stopped in the Turkish capital Istanbul and visited the restaurant of Nusret Gökçe, better known as Salt Bae, a celebrity chef who became an internet sensation for his theatrical way of carving meat dishes before throwing salt on them.
The video that made Salt Bae an internet sensation.
The visit was filmed and shared on Salt Bae’s Twitter and Instagram accounts. In the video, Maduro is seen with his wife Cilia Flores enjoying a meat dish, hand carved by the celebrity chef, and smoking Cuban cigars from a box embossed with his name. The video also show the president inviting Salt Bae to Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, and receiving special napkins as a gift from the famous chef.
In his message on social media, Salt Bae wrote: “I would like to thank President Nicolás Maduro for his visit.”
The video quickly went viral, becoming a global trend before it was deleted from Instagram.
3.7 million Venezuelans suffered from malnutrition between 2015 and 2017
Reggaeton star J Balvin was one of the many people who attacked the president on social media, writing “this president is a Goddamned idiot” in the comments section.
President Maduro mentioned his visit to the restaurant when he first arrived back in Venezuela. “I send my regards to Nusret. He served us personally, we talked and enjoyed ourselves with him. He’s a very nice man, he loves Venezuela,” he said.
The scene of the feast comes as Venezuela continues to struggle with a dire economic crisis and deepening food insecurity. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), between 2015 and 2017, 3.7 million Venezuelans suffered from malnutrition – four times the figure between 2010 and 2012. Basic food items, especially meat, have disappeared from the shelves as the government attempts to control prices and restore the country’s failing economy.
English version by Melissa Kitson.