Dudamel ‘faces arrest if he returns to Venezuela’

May 31, 2018 by norman lebrecht


The clarinettist Robert Larm has posted the following situation report on Venezuela, received from a source who needs to remain anonymous. We can vouch independently for the accuracy of the first two points. The third cannot be confirmed.


1. El Sistema will be continued. In what shape it will be down the road is anyone’s guess. Its founder, Jose Antonio Abreu, was able to skillfully navigate the political mine field for many years. But now that he has passed away one person familiar with the situation told me “…nothing can happen like before.”


2. The SIMÓN BOLÍVAR ORCHESTRA has been disbanded. This is the musical ensemble that catapulted El Sistema, Gustavo Dudamel, Abreu and Venezuela to the forefront of the classical music world. It was a revolutionary concept that has had similar systems sprout up all over the world. This is the orchestra that was seen in the top concert halls around the world and recorded multiple cds and videos. What started off as a youth group became a full fledged professional orchestra as the players aged out. Many of its core members had played together for nearly twenty years. Now it is all gone under the mandate of the government led by President Nicolas Maduro. The group that recently performed in Vienna was an excellent group of entirely new and younger players. The government wanted to “show off” El Sistema.

3. GUSTAVO DUDAMEL is now considered persona non grata by the Venezuelan government. If he attempts to enter the country he will be detained at the airport or forced to board a plane and immediately leave the country. He is not even being allowed to assist at his mentor’s funeral, Maestro Abreu.

Why am I sharing this? A friend from Facebook reached out to me and asked to set things straight as to what exactly is going on in their home country. Is this person reliable? Yes, I would vouch for this individual. I cannot share any details about this person because it could endanger the individual and the individual’s family. More details and names were given which I cannot share. This is very serious – people can just disappear if word gets out to those in power.

May we all hope that my friend has over exaggerated the musical situation in Venezuela. However, this person has shown me things that validate the claims that are being made.

Comments (53)

  1. Alexander says:

    a little bird told me he is to be the chief conductor at the Moscow Philharmonic ( they will exile their conductor to Caracas) from next year 😉 any suggestions ?

    1. Trevor S. says:

      Sorry but it was a 1st April’s joke …

      1. Alexander says:


  2. Geoff Baker says:

    A curious post.

    1. Of course El Sistema will continue. It’s a flagship program of the Venezuelan government and about its only remaining propaganda tool that continues to function internationally.

    2. The Simón Bolívar orchestra is performing tomorrow in Caracas. It announced auditions for new members earlier this month. What has happened is that a vast swathe of the orchestra has left Venezuela of its own volition. It has not been disbanded.

    3. This seems unlikely. If Dudamel were genuinely persona non grata with the Venezuelan government, they would surely have fired him as musical director of El Sistema. They surely would not allow him to rehearse with El Sistema’s orchestras via video link. Senior political figures now sit on El Sistema’s board of directors, and the program’s executive director, Eduardo Méndez, recently reaffirmed the strong relationship between El Sistema and Dudamel. If Dudamel were really persona non grata, a smooth political operator like Méndez wouldn’t mention his name.

    This post has a hint of a PR exercise about it. It sets up El Sistema as innocent victim and the government as victimiser. The reality is rather more complex, and it’s one in which El Sistema and its founder, Abreu, have played a much more active role.

  3. Geoff Baker says:

    Also, El Sistema may be in a bad way compared to the golden years when oil revenues poured in and money was no object, but it continues to be a privileged sector in Venezuela. If you want to see “armageddon” you should check out a public hospital. While El Sistema manages to keep up a busy schedule of concerts, not to mention a hyperactive press office, 80% of hospitals don’t have a regular water supply, and only a tiny fraction of emergency rooms continue to function normally.

    1. william osborne says:

      A lot of these problems stem from the embargo. I notice that one is not allowed to ship drugs, both perspection and no-percription, and medicine (as a very broad general category) to Venezuela. Surely this affects the hospitals. In addition, all shipments with a customs value over $2000 are forbidden. That would exclude almost all medical equipment, which is very expensive. To say nothing of all the other things needed for a modern society.

      One of the worst aspects of embargos is blocking the chemicals and machinery needed for water supply systems. People begin drinking bad water which causes countless deaths, especially among children and the elderly. Then they go to hospitals where the medicines have run out due to the embargo.

      Americans seldom think about the nature of the embargos their government imposes, even though it is well-known that they can have a quasi-genocidal effect. The UN estimated, for example, that half of million people died in Iraq due to the ten year long embargo before the country was invaded. The destruction of water supplies was one of the main causes.

      We know, of course, that the USA is profoundly concerned about democracy in Venezuela. This long-term concern with democracy is why the USA and its proxies deposed governments in Latin America and installed people like Pinochet in Chile, the Junta in Argentina, the Somoza regime in Nicauragua, the military dictatorships of Guatemala, El Salvador’s military dictatorships, the Hugo Banzer dictatorship of Bolivia, and the Alfredo Stroessner regime in Paraguay.

      Gee, I sure hope they continue this noble tradition and get those evil leftists out of Venezuela. Who cares how many people die because of the embargo. War is war.

      FedEx provides a list of things that can’t be shipped to Venezuela here:

      1. william osborne says:

        Another aspect of this is blocking embargoed countries out of the international financial system, which makes imports all but impossible. Even if products can be found and important, the transfers of money to buy this is greatly hindered or made impossible.

        1. Lee Bailey says:

          Its the Venezuelan government that prohibits all of these items being sent to Venezuela. The Venezuelan government has decreed that only it is allowed to import these items to the country, as I know due to having a mother in law in Venezuela who needs medicine that cannot be found as the only permitted importer is not importing these medicines (the Venezuelan government). There are no embargoes on any kind of physical product being imposed on Venezuela by any foreign entity. What you are saying is completely and utterly false.

      2. Greg Hlatky says:

        Always the same promises.
        Always the same catastrophes.
        Always the same excuses.
        Always the same scapegoats.

        1. Gonout Backson says:

          And always the same advocates.

        2. Tamino says:

          Greg Hlatky, are you for real? If yes, under which circumstances can such retarded yet talkative mindsets as yours develop? Where do you live? Where did you last fight with your life for freedom?

      3. Hernan says:

        The US oil monopolies will not allow the people of Venezuela to benefit from their oil wealth. The CIA is currently engaged in economic warfare just as it did in Chile during the Allende years. The Venezuelan people are valiantly resisting Imperialist aggression. Dudamel is in the wrong side of history. He is no Shostakovich.
        If Dudamel cared about Venezuelans, he should condemn US economic and political aggression. Dudamel remains silent. No courage, so sad.

      4. DD says:

        It’s pretty clear you are getting news from some very biased sources. There is no US “embargo” on Venezuela. There are sanctions against individuals in the corrupt regime and it’s finances.

        If you did a tiny bit of research you’d see that it’s actually the Venezuelan government itself that is blocking the import of medicine and drugs that don’t come through it’s official, i.e. corrupt channels. Here are some actual news sources:

        Try to get out of the Chavista/Telesur/VenezuelaAnalysis fantasy world for a second and realize this is a corrupt, despotic, and failing regime not some leftist fantasy of US intervention.

        1. william osborne says:

          The FedEx list shows exactly what can’t be shipped, not by anyone, any time. Medicines, medical equipment, seeds, fertalizer, etc. The blocked shipments in the articles you list were for single, specific shipments from individuals or groups that contained materials the government felt could be used to undermine it — something that is very likely happening under the circumstances. In short, the reports are an attempt to make it look like the government is for some mysterious and unexplained reason blocking materials the country needs. Complete nonsense, and typical of the lies surrounding this issue.

          1. william osborne says:

            As the FedEx list shows, American firms are forbidden to ship medicines and medical equipment to Venezuela. Individuals in the USA were, however, sending first aid kits to those attempting to overthrow the government of Venezuela, so the Venezuelan government confiscated them. The USA then took the opportunity to loudly proclaim that Venezuela is blocking medical shipments, to cover up that the USA has forbidden firms to ship medical equipment to the country.

            Embargos of this are in effect a form of mass murder. It is only natural that the US government lies through its teeth about it and tries to cover it up. Business as usual.

          2. Gonout Backson says:

            Eternal question : either you lie, or you don’t understand what you’re reading. The FedEx list you show doesn’t prove anything you pretend it does. It informs the customers what FedEx wouldn’t ship to Venezuela because Venezuela refuses to accept it. Seen this many times in other, not American post-offices concerning war zones and particularly vicious dictatorships, as the one that rules Venezuela.

          3. Lee Bailey says:

            That list is what the Venezuelan government refused to allow into the country and is the same as the list DHL also have to display, in order for the Venezuelan government to allow them to continue doing business.

          4. DD says:

            Uh, this is starting to sound like a conspiracy theory. Do you actually know any Venezuelans?

            I’m married to one and have seen first hand the trouble she has to go through to disguise medicine so she can mail it to her sick parent. And, surprise, she’s not hiding it from the US authorities. It’s the Venezuelan government that will search packages and confiscate items.

            It’s a travesty that the medicine isn’t available in Venezuela, it’s a travesty that the Venezuelan government won’t accept any medical aid, and it’s a travesty that they won’t even allow family members to send much needed medicine to their family members. For anyone on the left still defending these people, please please go and find some actual Venezuelans and talk to them. There are millions fleeing the country, so it should get easier and easier unfortunately….

          5. Gonout Backson says:

            Don’t waste your time. You’re talking facts – who cares about that ? You cannot reason someone out of something he hadn’t been reasoned into. If facts prove them wrong, it’s too bad for the facts. And they always find a way around these.

        2. Hernan says:

          You are so misinformed. Goldman Sachs has been pressured not to deal with Venezuela gold backed securities. The US government through the “Democracy” endowments is engaged in internal subversion just as it has done in Ukraine, Syria, Libya, Nicaragua, Egypt, Iraq, Russia, Armenia and others.

          1. william osborne says:

            Citibank has also refused payment transfers from Venezuela to block imports, including for 300,000 doses of insulin. Manipulations of the financial system also affect food imports and other essential goods.

            But of couse, we are to believe that the Venezuelan government is blocking the import of essential needs that would be entirely against its own interests.

            Venezuela nationalized its oil, so the USA will not stop until the government of the country is destroyed. This sort of intervention has been consistent in Latin America for over a century.

          2. william osborne says:

            The difficulty for the US is that sanctions that impede the flow of Venezuela’s oil would seriously harm the Gulf Coast oil industry in the USA. This is why a full blown blockade hasn’t been imposed. The strategy is to squeeze Venezuela out of the international financial system. This makes the country more dependant on its oil dollars, while simultaenously destroying its economy. This is rarely discussed in the corporate media, but this Reuters article covers some of the facts:


          3. william osborne says:

            Here is a copy of the US government’s Executive Order placing ecomonic sanctions on Venezuela. (We’re supposed to believe no sanctions exists.) Part of the modern world’s think-speak is that these are called “sanctions” instead of embargoes or blockades. It is also notable how refined this form of war has become, how it can destroy economies and cause populations enormous suffering, while still protecting the interests of specific US companies working in sanctioned countries.


          4. william osborne says:

            And of course, the above is only one of a series of sanctions place on the country. They are contanstly refined and increased to create the desired effects.

          5. Gonout Backson says:

            @William Osborne
            The only “facts” your Reuters text “covers” are quotations from a Maduro’s official, stating this or that. Officials of this kind are pretty good at stating things. That doesn’t make them facts.

  4. Petros Linardos says:

    Does anyone know about wow many El Sistema alumni have been hired by western orchestras?

    I know of Edicson Ruiz, a double bass with the Berlin Philharmonic (no less) since 2001. How many others occupying such prestigious posts?

    1. Hernan says:

      A lot. An american musician cannot compete with a Venezuelan musician who gets a full scholarship and free instruments. An American musician in any professional orchestra has $200,000 invested in music lessons, instruments and education. Currently, private music lessons are over $125/hour. In Venezuela its all free. Dudamel paid NOTHING to be the great maestro that he is. Now he bites the hand that fed him. Sad.

      1. Petros Linardos says:

        $125 per hour at what level?
        My children are currently having music lessons far below that.

      2. C Barclay says:

        It’s sad that YOU would expect him to put up with everything. If you were hungry for a day, you’d want someone to do something. Dudamel is probably taking a stand against the currupt system.

        1. Hernan says:

          You are wrong. Dudamel is being pressured by the Hollywood elites who hate the Venezuelan government, and want it overthrown. Dudamel has been under enormous pressure to break with his government. Now, many Venezuelans believe he is a traitor because he has said nothing to the US economic sanctions imposed on the people of Venezuela. He has said NOTHING.

      3. Lee Bailey says:

        No he does not the hand that feeds, or at least I am not aware of him criticising Abreu or the previous 9 Venezuelan administrations that El Sistema existed alongside. It survives despite the greedy useless criminal PSUV scum and certainly not because of it.

        1. Hernan says:

          Presidents Chavez and Maduro have taken an organization with about 200,000 poor kids studying music with full scholarships to the current level of 800,000. In California, you barely have 50,000 students studying music much less with full scholarships. That is why the LAPhil had to go to Venezuela to find talent.

          1. Hernan says:

            Chavez increased the budget by 100 times. President Maduro continued the process. The goal is to have 1,000,000 poor kids studying music. Before Chavez 200,000 kids struggled to learn and play music. Dudamel benefitted from the Chavez largess, a very good reason for Dudamel to have played in Chavez’ funeral. He did this to the disdain of the Hollywood elites.

        2. C Barclay says:

          With all due respect: I live a stone’s throw from Venezuela (almost literally) – I happen to KNOW what the Venezuelan majority are saying. Those that hate Dudamel do so because he’s been silent during a crisis and NOT because he is finally speaking up! We also know the (failing) voice of the Maduro support – that want you to put up with all his evil ways.

          1. Hernan says:

            Perhaps you have not noticed that President Maduro got elected by a healthy margin. I am sure that the majority of Venezuelans whom you know are against the revolution; however, that does not represent the majority of Venezuelans. The elite and racist oligarchy cannot bring a candidate that can unseat President Maduro. They offer NO plan but to reduce taxes and cutback social programs. Simply put the rich have no plan for Venezuela.

  5. Hernan says:

    The United States is on the verge of having its vassal states invade Venezuela. Trump has publicly stated that invasion of Venezuela is on the table. Dudamel’s silence on American aggression, and his siding with the United States and the hated Venezuelan oligarchy against the official and legitimate government of Venezuela amounts to treatery.
    The 800,000 music students who get all free scholarships and free instruments, and are grateful for the Venezuelan government support will not be pleased to play for a declared traitor. As a former admired of Dudamel, I like millions of Venezuelan must part ways with him. Dudamel will condemn the Revolutionary Government of Venezuela, but he will not condemn US Imperialism’s intervention and sabotage of Venezuela. He broke all of our hearts.

    1. Lee Bailey says:

      None of the venezuelans I know agree with you. Most of them still think he is with the government and dislike him for that reason. They want him to speak out more forcefully against their families suffering inside Venezuela.

      1. Hernan says:

        Not surprise that your “friends” oppose the Bolivarian Revolution. Despite the oppressive economic war by the United States against the people of Venezuela, the US backed Venezuelan “opposition” cannot get elected. Why? They have no plan other than lowering taxes, and cutting back on social programs.

      2. Carlos Bas says:

        Lee. I would also like Dudamel to speak more yet I understand he doesn’t want to cause more trouble to the Sistema. It’s difficult. Hernan, stop your pathetic defense of the criminals.

        1. Hernan says:

          Carlos, the criminals are the traitors who conspire with Imperialism to destroy Venezuela. The criminals are the ones who buy subsidized and or free food and smuggle it out to Colombia to make huge profits and consequently cause food shortages. Unlike Revolutionary Venezuela, Colombia has no food subsidies and they die of malnutrition and greater infant mortality.

  6. Gustavo Coronel says:

    Gustavo Dudamel is a moral invertebtrate. He has kept essentially silent about the atrocities of the Venezuelan narco-regime for many years. He is a personal friend of some of the worst members of the criminal chavista gang, like Elias Jaua.

    1. Tamino says:

      There are no moral superiors in this more or less covet war between Venezuela and the US. Just because someone has muchas dollars doesn’t give him moral superiority. The legacy of the US in the Americas is a repulsive history of atrocities and imperialist interventions for the benefit of a small group of neo-colonialists.

      1. Carlos Bas says:

        This isn’t a war between the USA and Venezuela. Instead it’s one between an illegitimate, corrupt and monstrously inept government and the people of Venezuela. Stop defending thugs who have become rich while people suffer.

        1. Tamino says:

          I‘m not defending anyone. Had you read what I wrote, I said there are no moral superiors. That conflict only knows thugs, mobsters and criminals. On both sides. And the people suffer. As usual.

        2. Hernan says:

          Carlos. You know as does the entire Venezuelan people it is a war between the Venezuelan oligarchy and their US protectors and the vast majority of people who never had benefited from oil wealth until President Chavez was elected. The war is against the Venezuelan elite whites against the working class poor blacks and browns. No guessing on what side you are on.

          1. Carlos Bas says:

            Hernan, you certainly can’t think beyond the ideology which perhaps explained Venezuela for some time. It doesn’t anymore. Again, it’s a monstrously inept government of thugs. Stop defending the criminals.

          2. Gonout Backson says:

            @Carlos Bas
            He cannot do it. This is the totalitarian mindset. Or “secular-religious”, as communism has been qualified. If he changes his mind about this, the foundation of his being, he might collapse – or so he thinks. Almost literally: there have been documented cases (my parents knew one personally) of suicides of communist believers from the East at discovering the truth about the West in the late 50s.

          3. Hernan says:

            Carlos, the thugs are the racist, US backed and financed so called “opposition” that cannot get elected. An Afro Venezuelan supporter of his government was caught by a mob beaten and set on fire. Pretty disgusting. Dudamel kept quiet and said nothing.
            See for yourself.

          4. Carlos Bas says:

            How much does the Bolivarian Farm pays for your trolling, Hernan? Who signs your check, Diosdado, Tarek, Maburro himself or some unknown tuerca del régimen? Stop defending criminal thugs. People are dying.

        3. Hernan says:

          ”How much does the Bolivarian Farm pays for your trolling, Hernan? ”

          Carlos. Is that your best response? Sad. US/Oligarchy paid thugs burn to permanently maim black Venezuelans who are defending Venezuela from foreign aggression. You are a traitor. Very sad. I hope that you are living in the land of traitor, Miami.

          1. Carlos Bas says:

            People are dying.

          2. Gonout Backson says:

            @Carlos Bas
            What does he care. Revolución o muerte – of as many others as necessary.

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