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Iranians Fascinated By Venezuela Events

Anti-government protesters hold their hands up during the symbolic swearing-in of Juan Guaido. January 23.

Wednesday's events in Venezuela echoed loud and clear in Iran during an evening a lot of Iranian web users were busy encouraging each other to show their dissatisfaction with the state TV by proliferating the hashtag #IraniansWantIRIBban.

They wanted to make it known worldwide that they were unhappy with the state propaganda.

But many Iranians were watching the vents in Venezuela with wonder and drawing parallels between Iran and Venezuela.

They were criticizing their government and the political behavior of Iranian reformist politicians and expressing hope for change in their own country while commenting on the events in Venezuela.

Juan Guaido, the president of the opposition-led National Assembly, on January 23 declared himself acting president in Caracas, as tens of thousands of people marched across the country against socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

Hours later, U.S. President Donald Trump announced he recognizes Guaido as interim president, leading Maduro to break diplomatic relations with bitter rival Washington.

Russia condemned the U.S. decision as both Moscow and Tehran have long been allies of the increasingly authoritarian Venezuelan government.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government in Turkey also came to Maduro’s rescue, by defending legality and warning that the declaration of a rival president can lead to chaos. Critics say that Erdogan has also become much more authoritarian over the years.

The Islamic Republic also did not hesitate to show support for the embattled Maduro. The foreign ministry spokesman condemned the U.S. decision to recognize Guaido, calling it “intervention” in internal affairs of the country.

But the Venezuela events inevitably came to bewitch many Iranians who have witnessed similar popular outbursts against the authoritarian government in their own country.

Young and angry Iranians showed each other pictures of the demonstrations and violent events in Venezuela on Wednesday, telling each other this could have happened in Iran. Even more impressive were posts on Twitter that indicated this should happen in their country.

In the meantime, there were also mini-debates online about whether a similar development is probable in Iran.

Among the many similarities between Iran and Venezuela are their populist leaders and a paralyzing economic crisis marked by hyperinflation and corruption. In fact many have been warning the Iranian government about similarities between economic trends in both countries.

Another Iranian journalist suggested: "Let's look at it this way: In a country where everything belonged to one person and the opposition was being suppressed, things became worse every month, and government politicians blamed America for every problem, and there was no prospect for any improvement, finally the vicious circle broke. A change took place and a new era began."

Activist Ahmad Batebi scorned Iranian reformists, saying that the reason for the success of Venezuelan people was that unlike Iran they did not have reformists who would deceive them, and warn them that if they don't stay calm their country could become another Syria.

There were others such as Mina Varshochi who termed what happened in Venezuela as "intervention in the internal affairs of other countries," warning that "If we cheer over the recognition of the opposition leader in Venezuela by U.S. leaders, tomorrow we have to keep silent if a foreign country intervenes in Iran's domestic affairs."

A pessimistic Amir Ebtehaj wrote: "Venezuelans took to the streets as a result of poverty and chaos, but they will be losers. According to history, wherever U.S. imperialism has intervened in the world, the intervention was followed by war, execution and bloodshed, not by a national, democratic and popular government."

Generally, however, Iranians on the net who are fed up with the Islamic Republic welcomed the event. Foreign-based journalist Pouria Zeraati wrote that the recognition of the opposition leader of Venezuela as the country's president by the United States is one of the most outstanding accomplishments of U.S. foreign policy. "This was the White House's official support for a protest movement," he wrote.

Iran-based journalist Sasan Aghaei wrote: "They fought for freedom for seven years. They did everything from taking part in elections to rebellion and military action, to put an end to a leftist government. Yet, there is still a long way to their victory. Leftists steal the government from the people and taking the country back from them is a costly business. As costly as the poverty in Venezuela."

In an apparent irony about the laid-back political behavior of Iranian reformists, sarcastic Twitter user Davood Zarei wrote in a tweet: "It's strange! Venezuelans did not wait for Maduro to die of old age before beginning their revolution."

Meanwhile, Javad Daliri, the editor-in-chief of the government-owned daily newspaper Iran observed that Maduro has lost his real power as well as his virtual authority as Twitter and Facebook withdrew his blue tick.