Published 12:29 PM EDT Sep 18, 2018
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is drawing worldwide condemnation for feasting on a steak prepared by a celebrity chef known as "Salt Bae," while the collapse of his country has left people starving and fleeing by the millions.
Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who represents the largest contingent of Venezuelans in the U.S., issued a series of Tweets on Tuesday morning bashing the scene that was posted — and then deleted — from social media.
Rubio called Maduro a "dictator," called Turkish celebrity chef Nusret Gökçe a "weirdo," and posted the name and number of the chef's restaurant in Miami, home to legions of Venzeulan-Americans and Cuban-Americans who despise the socialist leader.
Gökçe became an Internet star after he began posting videos of his steaks and his signature move where he sprinkles salt down his forearm onto his dishes. His flamboyant cooking style, which features "gold" steaks and elaborate gestures over the grill, has made him so popular that he also runs restaurants in New York City, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Istanbul, where he feted Maduro with a steak and a cigar.
He previously drew condemnation for praising another socialist dictator - Fidel Castro. The chef posted a picture on his Instagram account posing next to a photo of Castro, cigar in hand, shortly after opening his Miami restaurant, in a post that has also been deleted, according to WLRN.
Maduro is the successor of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez, who has plunged his South American nation into turmoil, prompting an economic collapse, a food crisis, a security disaster, and one of the largest exoduses in the world.
The food crisis has become so pronounced that 30% of Venezuelans say they often eat once a day, and 78% said they have trouble keeping themselves fed, according to a poll published in The Miami Herald. Simply delivering food has become a dangerous endeavor as food trucks are getting assaulted and looted, according to a report from PRI.
That has led 2.3 million people — nearly one-tenth of Venezuela's population — to flee to neighboring countries, according to an August update from the United Nations. Those numbers will only continue to grow, according to the UN, as up to 4,000 people leave Venezuela each day.