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August 20, 2017
Venezuela's dictator bellows 'traitor' at Venezuelan maestro Dudamel
In a show of how far the cultural left has crumbled, Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro has turned rabid against one of Venezuela's brightest lights, calling classical music director Gustavo Dudamel, a national hero to that nation, "a traitor." It's about par for socialist dictatorships since the days of Stalin. But it also signals the consolidation of loathing from even the artistic left against this odious socialist regime.
Up until now, Dudamel has been very circumspect about criticizing the Chavista socialist regime, and generally supported it, actually, because of the state's role in supporting Venezuela's famed youth orchestra program. Known as El Sistema, it's an amazing, genuinely authentic, program dating from 1975 to train young street kids to become classical musicians, transforming their lives through the highest form of music. Its significance as a global cultural treasure cannot be understated. Some 800,000 children have been uplifted through the program and they have excelled so greatly that their touring orchestra fills orchestra halls globally with appreciative audiences. Dudamel himself, now 36, leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic as its maestro conductor.
Yet perhaps because he has been so focused on music all his life, Dudamel has supported the government up until recently because of its support for the $80 million program. The fact that Maduro is enraged at him now has been It's not anything Chavistas should get much credit for, as all Venezuelan governments have done this, but Dudamel has nevertheless been willing to stand up for them, and he has been criticized by other musicians for not speaking out, or worse still, participating in Chavista-regime supporting events. One recent critical moment happened in Los Angeles where architect Frank Gehry came up with plans to create a Dudamel symphony hall in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, Dudamel's hometown and that was seens as a boon for the Chavistas.
Spotted in front of Frank Gehry's office in the hipsterly south Marina del Rey part of Los Angeles on July 9, 2014 at 5 p.m. It was a photo I took at a t-intersection between Westlawn and Jefferson to protest the Dudamel/Gehry collaboration in support of the Venezuelan regime. Old Frank would not have been able to drive home without seeing it because that road was the only way out.
Now that Chavista thugs have begun picking off these young musicians in street protests - murdering an 18-year old violist named Armando Canizales, and arresting and beating up a 23-year-old young man, Wuilly Arteaga, who played his violin at street protests. Dudamel has finally come around to speaking out as many other musicians have urged him.
Dudamel wrote a moving, eloquent op-ed for the New York Times about his change of position, called "I raise my voice," also posted on his Facebook page and reprinted here:
My entire life has been devoted to music and art as a way of transforming societies. I raise my voice against violence. I raise my voice against any form of repression. Nothing justifies bloodshed. We must stop ignoring the just cry of the people suffocated by an intolerable crisis. Extreme confrontation and polarization cannot seize common conscience and peace, constituting borders and barriers to understanding and peaceful and democratic coexistence. Historically the Venezuelans have been a fighting people but never a violent one.For democracy to be healthy there must be true respect and understanding. Democracy cannot be built to fit the needs of a particular government or otherwise it would cease to be a democracy. The democratic exercise involves listening to the voice of the majority as the ultimate bulwark of social truth. No ideology can go beyond the common good. Politics must be exercised from conscience and in the utmost respect of the Constitution, adapting itself to a young society that, like the Venezuelan, has the right to reinvent itself through the healthy and unobjectionable democratic checks and balances.Venezuelans are desperate for their inalienable right to well-being and the satisfaction of their basic needs. The only weapons that can be given to people are the necessary tools to forge their future: books, brushes, musical instruments; in short, those that embody the highest values of the human spirit: good, truth and beauty.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. We owe our youth a hopeful world, a country where we can walk freely in dissent, in respect, in tolerance, in dialogue and in which dreams have room to build the Venezuela we all yearn for.It is time to listen to the people: Enough is enough. –Gustavo Dudamel
That Dudamel can now separate himself from the Chavista programming power may be putting the program's tour schedule in danger, but money itself drying up may be doing that anyway. The rage of Maduro does signal that Dudamel is lost to them. It's a welcome sign to see the culture finally pulling up the drawbridge against this odious regime. Nothing Sean Penn or Oliver Stone - gee so silent lately - can do to turn that around.