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article imageProtests at Miami restaurant owned by chef that hosted Venezuela's Maduro

By Leila MACOR (AFP)     Sep 19, 2018 in World

Angry Venezuelans protested Wednesday outside a Miami restaurant owned by a celebrity Turkish chef who recently hosted President Nicolas Maduro for an ostentatious steak dinner in Istanbul.

Images of Maduro gorging himself and later puffing on a cigar went viral after it was posted on Instagram by Nusret Gokce, the chef who entertained the Venezuelan president at his luxury Nusr-Et restaurant.

Gokce, who goes by the name Salt Bae, owns several similar restaurants abroad, including in Miami and New York.

Maduro's feast showed "a lack of lack of respect for all Venezuelans," said Yadira Weir, 70, a former high school teacher who was among the protesters outside the Miami restaurant.

"There is too, too, too much suffering," said Weir, who has worked as an office cleaner since she arrived in Miami two months ago. Many Venezuelans can only manage one meal a day, she said.

A main course in Gokce's restaurant costs between $70 and $250 -- equivalent to between two and eight months salary in Venezuela on the minimum wage.

"This restaurant supports a Venezuelan dictator and drug dealer while people die from hunger and no medicine," read one sign held by the protesters.

The Yelp online review site was deluged with restaurant comments so vitriolic "they cannot be printed in the newspaper," the Spanish-language Nuevo Herald reported. Yelp eventually closed down the comment section.

"We're starving to death, there is no medicine, people are eating from the garbage," said another protester, Lucy Arroe, 65. "It is not right that he (Maduro) allows himself the luxury of eating enormous slices of meat."

Protests were also held Tuesday outside the Nusr-Et Steakhouse in New York.

Gokce took down videos of Maduro's Istambul visit from his Instagram account after it was inundated with thousands of irate messages.

In one of the videos Maduro sucks on a thick cigar taken from a box bearing his name engraved on a golden label, while receiving a T-shirt emblazoned with Gokce's face.

As the controversy raged, Maduro defended the chef.

"I send greetings from here to our friend Nusret. Comrade, soon I'll return to Istanbul so we can see one another again. Thanks for the gifts," he told journalists in Caracas Tuesday.

Venezuela is struggling with an economic crisis in which the International Monetary Fund predicts inflation will hit one million percent this year.

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