But by that time the videos had already generated a maelstrom of criticism for Maduro, who was forced to put a lighter spin on the dining experience. Appearing on television Monday night, Maduro called the meal a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” and thanked Gokce for his hospitality, saying he hoped to see him soon in Caracas.
“While Venezuelans suffer and die of hunger, Nicolas Maduro and Cilia are enjoying themselves at one of the most expensive restaurants in the world,” said Julio Borges, the exiled former president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly.
Even Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, a fierce critic of Maduro, piled on, noting that Gokce 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.