After being pressed for months to use his superstar status to address the political violence in his native Venezuela, Gustavo Dudamel has begun to comply.
The music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, one of the world’s most famous musicians and most famous Venezuelans, publicly called on Venezuela’s president Thursday to “listen to the people” and end the protest violence that has resulted in more than 29 deaths, the Los Angeles Times reported.
For years, Dudamel has attempted to remain above politics, despite dramatically intensifying poverty and privations in his home country under the regime of Nicolás Maduro. Even as his star rose, Dudamel feared that speaking out politically would endanger El Sistema, Venezuela’s government-funded music education program, which provides opportunity to hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged youths and of which he is the leading symbol.
In the end, it was El Sistema that changed the maestro’s mind. On Wednesday, a 17-year-old violist from one of the El Sistema youth orchestras was killed during a demonstration in Caracas. In a matter of hours Dudamel had shaken off whatever reluctance he had to go public and issued a statement titled “I Raise My Voice” in which he deplored the violence and repression of the current regime and declared: “Enough is enough.”
For Dudamel’s critics who have long demanded that he speak out in opposition to the current regime, the open letter posted on his social media accounts won’t be enough.
But in a wide-ranging conversation in his Disney Hall office a few days earlier, Dudamel explained how his thinking has evolved during what has become the greatest trial in his life.
“My position hasn’t changed,” Dudamel told The Times. “But the crisis is true.”
Food staples and medicine shortages are severe throughout the country, The Times reported. Unemployment and inflation are soaring. Caracas, the capital, has one of the highest murder rates in the world. Massive street protests have become frequent at which the president is accused of dismantling what was once a model South American democracy.
Last week, in response to the country’s deteriorating conditions, Dudamel released a 55-second video in which he instructed Venezuela’s leaders to put aside their political egos and stop what he called the fratricide.
Three days later, he told The Times that, “if the people are asking for something, let’s listen and do something. Why do we have to wait? Every minute counts. We don’t need more blood. It’s not right for people to be dying in demonstrations. We need voices that unite Venezuela.”
—City News Service
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