Relations between Venezuela and the U.S. have been rockier than usual in recent weeks. Now there’s a new voice getting in on some of the diplomatic action: Syria.
A representative of Syria’s Foreign and Expatriates Ministry condemned U.S. “conspiracies” against the South American country Monday, according to Syrian state news agency Sana. The statement came days after Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced his government thwarted a U.S.-backed plot to assassinate him and overthrow the socialist regime.
The ministry official condemned the U.S.’ alleged role in the coup attempt, saying U.S. conspiracies have “long been targeting Venezuela,” Sana reported. The news agency didn't name the official who spoke.
The Syrian and Venezuelan governments have been friendly for years, going back to the days of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Chávez backed Syrian President Bashar Assad at the outset of Syria’s long-running conflict, sending several shipments of diesel to Syria in 2012 despite international sanctions against Damascus. Venezuela itself has a large Syrian community, and some Syrians have occupied high-level government positions, Foreign Policy noted.
The alliance has stayed strong through Maduro’s presidency. In the midst of mass anti-government demonstrations in Caracas last year, Assad sent Maduro a letter wishing him success against the “brutal attack” on his government.
Antagonism between the U.S. and Syria has taken a backseat in recent months as both countries find themselves battling a common enemy, the Islamic State group. But relations between the U.S. and Venezuela have taken an icier turn lately.
Last Thursday, Maduro announced his government arrested 11 soldiers, including a former air force general, who were allegedly conspiring to bomb the presidential palace and other government buildings with a jet. The U.S. Embassy had bribed government officials to take part in the plot, Maduro said, pointing to a 10-year U.S. visa he said was granted to one of the detainees.
Just days before Thursday’s announcement, Maduro openly accused U.S. Vice President Joe Biden of working with other governments to overthrow the socialist regime in Caracas. Biden, incidentally, met with prominent members of Venezuela’s opposition last Wednesday as they unveiled a plan for a peaceful government transition in the country. But the U.S. State Department dismissed all of Maduro’s accusations against Washington, calling them “ludicrous.” Meanwhile, the BBC notes that since first taking office in March 2013, Maduro has claimed seven coup attempts against his government.
Caracas has been amplifying its rhetoric against Washington since the U.S. issued travel bans on several government officials it accused of committing human rights abuses in the crackdown on protesters in February 2014. The travel restrictions went into effect at the end of January.