ANKARA, Turkey – Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has blamed a wave of anti-government protests in Turkey on a foreign-led plot to destabilize his government, suggested Saturday that protest-hit Brazil was the victim of the same alleged conspiracy.
Erdogan was addressing tens of thousands of his supporters in the Black Sea coastal city of Samsun, the latest stop in a series of rallies he has called to shore up his political support.
The protests in Turkey erupted three weeks ago after riot police brutally cracked down on peaceful environmental activists who opposed plans to develop a park next to Istanbul's Taksim Square. The demonstrations have turned into expressions of discontent with what critics say is Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian bent since taking power a decade ago.
Thousands of protesters returned to Taksim Square on Saturday for a memorial for at least four people — three demonstrators and one police officer — killed during the protests. Some chanted "Dictator Tayyip!"
Erdogan denies he is authoritarian and points to elections in 2011 that returned him to a third term in office with 50 percent of the vote.
Brazil, meanwhile, has been hit by mass rallies set off this month by a 10-cent hike in bus and subway fares in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and elsewhere. The protests soon moved beyond that issue to tap into widespread frustration in Brazil over a range of issues, including high taxes, woeful public services and enormous government spending for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.
Erdogan, who has steered Turkey toward healthy economic growth, has alleged that unspecified foreign forces, bankers and foreign and Turkish media outlets are behind the protests because they want to harm Turkish interests. In Samsun, the Turkish leader said Brazil — another emerging market — was the target of the same destabilizing plot.
"The same game is now being played over Brazil," Erdogan said. "The symbols are the same, the posters are the same, Twitter, Facebook are the same, the international media is the same. They (the protests) are being led from the same center.
"They are doing their best to achieve in Brazil what they could not achieve in Turkey. It's the same game, the same trap, the same aim."