But following the death of a 17-year-old boy during a crackdown against anti-government protestors, the acclaimed conductor Gustavo Dudamel has denounced president Nicolas Maduro for the violent repression.
At least 36 people, including supporters and opponents of the government, have been killed in more than a month of unrest triggered by Maduro’s efforts to consolidate his rule.
“I raise my voice against violence. I raise my voice against any form of repression. Nothing justifies bloodshed,” Dudamel wrote in a Facebook post.
“I urgently call on the president of the republic and the national government to rectify and listen to the voice of the Venezuelan people. Times cannot be defined by the blood of our people.
“It is time to listen to the people: Enough is enough.”
Dudamel, the director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, had until now largely avoided speaking out about the economic, social and political crisis rocking his country. He has served as a poster boy for the acclaimed music education program El Sistema, which is credited with taking music to hundreds of thousands of children, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Dudamel’s statement came a day after Armando Cañizales, 17, was killed during clashes between protesters and the national guard.
Cañizales, who played the violin in an El Sistema orchestra, died after being shot in the neck. Footage of the incident shows the youngster wearing a motorcycle helmet and gas mask, before a line of national guards in riot gear.
Dudamel does not mention Cañizales in his statement, but the child’s name is emblazoned across a black heading above the post.
Because El Sistema is largely funded by the Venezuelan government, many have accused Dudamel of being complacent with a government that is increasingly being perceived as authoritarian.
His silence in the face of deteriorating conditions in Venezuela has earned him the anger and scorn of those who oppose Maduro. They accuse the conductor of failing to use his international prominence to push for change.
In his statement, Dudamel urged political leaders to stop the violence, but also directed much of his criticism at Maduro’s decision this week to convoke a constituent assembly to rewrite the country’s constitution.
“Democracy cannot be built to fit the needs of a particular government or otherwise it would cease to be a democracy. Politics must be exercised from conscience and in the utmost respect of the constitution, adapting itself to a young society that, like the Venezuelans, has the right to reinvent itself through the healthy and unobjectionable democratic checks and balances,” Dudamel wrote.
Dudamel also made reference to the intense shortages of food, medicine and basic goods which have made daily life a challenge for so many ordinary citizens. “Venezuelans are desperate for their inalienable right to wellbeing and the satisfaction of their basic needs,” he said.
Dudamel’s change of heart was welcomed by many, but others said his appeal to the beleaguered president was too little, too late.
Underneath the conductor’s post, a man claiming to be Cañizales’s uncle said that young people were the main victims of the country’s deeply polarized political crisis.
“He died for selfish interests on both sides. A government that has systematically killed our children, and an opposition that encourages them and then abandons them,” he wrote.
In recent weeks, protests have erupted nearly every day, often ending in fierce confrontations between the national guard and groups of young men wearing makeshift masks and swimming goggles, carrying home-made plywood shields.
During Wednesday’s protest, one young protester was driven over by a water-cannon, while more than 150 wounded people were rushed to the local hospital for emergency treatment.
Author: Virginia López