Just in: Pianist is nominated, conductor shamed, in LA human rights ‘Oscars’

Just in: Pianist is nominated, conductor shamed, in LA human rights ‘Oscars’


norman lebrecht

February 27, 2014

The pianist Gabriela Montero is one of ten celebrities named for outstanding work by the Human Rights Foundation, in recognition of her appeals for the restoration of justice and civil law in her home country, Venezuela.

Gustavo Dudamel is named on the HRF@s shame list for his proximity to the Madura regime in Venezuela.

Report here.



  • Brian says:

    Right on both counts.

  • Ademir says:

    It is worth mentioning that the nominations are made in the United States and by north american standards of what may be understood by human rights outside US, and that the Venezuelan government had deported Americans diplomats who met with the opposition for plotting a coup. It’s a shame how powerful nations seek, by all forms, to destabilize other countries governments not aligned to them, even if democratically elected and respectful of their own constitutions. And about Ms. Gabriela, I already mention that, if she is so eager in pointing fingers to who she feels dont align with her interests, she herself is lenient with her own agenda, playing with everybody who pay enough, and taking no account to the unethical positions of her employers.

    • Greg Hlatky says:

      No need for powerful nations to destabilize the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. Simple arithmetic – a field “progressive” governments never seem to learn – is doing the job just fine.

    • Anonymous says:

      There is nothing remotely democratic or respectful about the current Venezuelan government.

  • V.Lind says:

    Gee — no mention of Gergiev or Netrebko, who appeared from some postings around here to be the most indifferent people in the world to human rights.

  • There’s some serious bandwaggoning going on here. Take the whole deal with a pinch of salt.

  • Doug says:

    Now all Dudamel has to do is have a photo-op with Putin. Do you think Gergiev can arrange it?

  • David Boxwell says:

    That should be spelled: Maduro. Democratically elected by a majority of Venezuela’s voters.

  • David Boxwell says:

    HRF, according to Wikipedia, is a Venezuelan enterprise launched in 2005 as an anti-Chavez organization.

    So no surprise about the outcome of this year’s awards.

  • M.A. Steinberger says:

    Just because someone is in the public eye (Dudamel, e.g.) does that somehow obligate him to make public political pronouncements?

    Is there also the merest hint of a possibility that Ms. Montero in not so pure & altruistic, but is seeking a bit of publicity for herself?

    • Gabriela Montero says:

      Mr Boxwell, Mr Steinberger,

      I can let certain uninformed opinions fly, but when I read comments like this, accusing me of seeking publicity, I simply have to respond.

      I have spoken out, and called upon my Venezuelan colleagues to join me, for the following reasons of fact:

      19,336 Venezuelans were reported murdered in 2011, a further 21,692 in 2012, and 24,763 in 2013. 93% of these murders go uninvestigated. I would ask you to verify these figures on the OVV website, but the government has just shut it down! If you pro-rate these numbers to the population of the USA, it is like 350,000 americans being murdered every year on the streets. Venezuela is now among the five most deadly countries in the world, and Caracas is the world’s most deadly capital city. Furthermore, Venezuela’s corruption index (http://www.transparency.org/country#VEN) ranks it 160th from 177 nations, down there with the likes of Iraq. The country is broke and facing 56% inflation and shortages of basic staples, despite its vast oil reserves, while it continues to give free oil to the Castros and other ideological allies, whose authoritarian model of socialism it now follows under Maduro. And if there are still those amongst you who think Cuba the ideal model, then there is nothing I can do to help you.

      As for Maduro’s election, he was anointed successor in monarchial fashion by a dying Chavez and, if the government-run electoral committee is to be believed, took the narrowest victory in ensuing elections while controlling the country’s entire media and manipulating voters with temporary inducements and/or threats. To claim a fair and democratic victory is to insist that Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France because he crossed the line first, and because we so wanted to believe the myth. We are dealing with a kleptocracy in Venezuela! Please, research my country before you make farcical comments that further legitimize this brutal autocracy in the eyes of those who may not be informed as to the truth.

      Last week, peaceful student demonstrators – who have had enough of living in a failing state, as would you if you lived in one – took to the streets, unarmed. Reports claim that 50 are now dead, though we can’t really know, as they have kicked out CNN and many other news networks. Many are missing, many have been arrested and beaten by the National Guard and “colectivos”, civilians armed by the government who ride around the cities destroying property and shooting civilians. Just read the account of conductor Calos Izcaray, who posted here on Slipped Disc a few days ago, who was beaten, tortured and electrocuted by the Venezuelan National Guard. Or is he, too, looking for publicity? Are the scares from cigarette burns on his back the elaborate concoction of a capitalist PR company?

      This is the reality we face, Mr. Boxwell and Mr. Steinberger. Just today I was campaigning for two innocent music students who have been arrested and beaten simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. It would be much simpler for me to sit back and ride the wave of Venezuelan popularity in the music world. It would certainly benefit my career more than fighting against this government, which has so deftly managed to hide behind our young musicians, who export a far more optimistic picture of Venezuela to the outside world.

      This is where the problem lies. Neutrality can only be the refuge of those who are truly independent of government. But when an artist chooses to appear at the side of an autocrat (elected or otherwise) to celebrate the state takeover of an independent television station, and when that artist then plays at his funeral and mourns alongside men like Akhmedinejad, and when that artist and his entire orchestra parades the new, rebranded national flag (8 stars) of our rebranded nation (“Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela”) on every major concert stage in the world, and on the cover of Deutsche Grammophon records, and when those orchestras are directly funded to the tune of several millions of dollars by a government which is now shooting students in the streets in denial of any democratic recognition to protest their failing state, he can not claim neutrality. When I was offered vast amounts of money to play at a government function, I refused. I told them very clearly, “I have no price!” To accuse me now of seeking publicity for myself as I show solidarity to the oppressed citizens of Venezuela is beyond idiotic, and does nothing to help those in Venezuela who need the support of the international community.

      Let me finish with a quote from Jose Antonio Abreu himself, made on February 4th, 1992 in support of then President Carlos Andres Perez, on the day Chavez attempted a failed coup: “Culture and totalitarianism are irreconcilable.” On this, we agree.


      Gabriela Montero

      • Gonout Backson says:

        Dear Gabriella, don’t expect anything from these people, and don’t try to convince them : it’s a waste of time, “you cannot reason a person out of something they were not reasoned into”. I’m old enough to have heard the same tunes throughout Eastern Europe for half a century, and more. There is no tyranny filthy enough for them to defend, if it has painted itself in the colours of “progress”. They scream “freedom and democracy”, but since yours is the “wrong” kind, they will leave you alone fighting for it. Bravo, and all the best.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          Gonout Backson says:

          Dear Gabriella, don’t expect anything from these people, and don’t try to convince them : it’s a waste of time, “you cannot reason a person out of something they were not reasoned into”. I’m old enough to have heard the same tunes throughout Eastern Europe for half a century, and more. There is no tyranny filthy enough for them to defend, if it has painted itself in the colours of “progress”. They scream “freedom and democracy”, but since yours is the “wrong” kind, they will leave you alone fighting for it. Bravo, and all the best.

          Why don’t you leave it up to “these people” to decide whether or not they will be convinced by the arguments presented to them? You haven’t presented any arguments yourself, just preemptively defamed them. What good is that going to do? Isn’t that exactly what the kinds of regimes you criticize do with their critics?

          Well done, Gonout, well done!

          • Michael, please stop picking fights with other readers. This is an open forum not a private wrestling ring.

          • Gonout Backson says:

            A small but significant difference : these regime don’t “defame”. After having “defamed” (just as Mr Maduro and Mr Putin defame their opponents, just as some of “these people” do here, reproducing their propaganda), they shoot. I don’t expect or hope to convince you, but give me at least that: I don’t.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            Sorry!!! I always get myself into trouble for asking people the same questions they ask other people or challenging them in the same ways they challenge other people. 🙂

            Gonout – you don’t have to convince me. I don’t know nearly enough about what is going on in Venezuela to form anything remotely resembling an informed opinion, but I know that so I don’t feel the need to pretend to have one.

            I have a borrowed opinion though because a friend who is from the region and who I think has a balanced and informed opinion about this tells me that he thinks Montero is quite justified in calling Dudamel out for not speaking up.

            On the other hand, he also says that he can see why Dudamel does not want to burn bridges in Venezuela and that he may be able to do more good if he stays on the inside and connected. That makes sense to me, too.

            Dudamel certainly doesn’t need the regime anymore. He could easily say bye and take off and enjoy the fame and fortune of the international career he has now.

      • M.A. Steinberger says:

        Dear Ms Montero, I most emphatically do not consider Cuba ideal; far from it. I likewise abhor what is happening in Venezuela. My point was, I felt, clearly stated: why do you consider it incumbent on others to follow your model of very public political statements? Your way may be right for you, but not for others, even those holding the same opinions. I have friends and family who are Holocaust survivors; some survived because they were hidden by quiet, unassuming people who did nothing to bring attention to themselves. Do you think it would have been better if they had protested loudly, thus rendering themselves unable to save individual lives?

        (By the way, I am Ms, not Mr.)

        • Robert Jones says:

          Ms Steinberger, although I appreciate your comment this is far away the reality in this situation. Dudamel is not quiet in Venezuela. He might not have said anything in favor or against the government this time but actions talk more than words. There are plenty of pictures of him hugging people in the government of Venezuela. He conducted the first national anthem that started the sign on of an official TV channel after the government closed an opposition channel. He might not have said anything but his actions are obviously saying that he is with the government. I don’t think he is in the sidelines just waiting so save the oppressed.

      • sdReader says:

        I believe you are sincere and not merely seeking publicity, but it is wrong to attack a fellow musician so publicly over his chosen (and reasonable) position for coping with the trauma in the home country just because it differs from yours.

        • M.A. Steinberger says:

          Said very well. Thank you.

        • Robert Jones says:

          He hasn’t taken any positions for or against anybody in this case. He doesn’t speak but he acts. I don’t envy him. He has been playing both sides: face of a Venezuelan government sponsored program and face of an American artistic institution both at the same time. The Venezuelan revolution vs the Imperialistic institution (in the eyes of the Venezuelan government). Until now it’s been masterful if you think about it. Unfortunately now this is falling really hard on everyone. Hard to sustain. I really wonder what a very conservative organization like the LA Phil (Disney family sponsored) is thinking here. Will his image of Venezuelan-Socialism-sponsorship grey the image of the orchestra? What about conservative donors?

        • Tsenoh Nam says:

          True. Love of semantics finds a swift death when violence becomes a legitimate, daily concern.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          sdReader says:

          I believe you are sincere and not merely seeking publicity, but it is wrong to attack a fellow musician so publicly over his chosen (and reasonable) position for coping with the trauma in the home country just because it differs from yours.

          I don’t understand the specific situation there well enough to really form an opinion about it, but I think what you say sounds very reasonable in any such situation. Maybe change can be more effectively worked towards from the inside, step by step, and maybe that kind of path has now been closed to Mr Dudamel?

  • M.A. Steinberger says:

    Hit the wrong key. I meant IS not, not “in not”.

  • ed says:

    Viewers of this event should take care not to confuse this private group or its fancy website with the United Nations or any of its human rights organizations. A cursory review of the Board will reveal some high profile ‘good guys’ poised to slam the Russkies, and a not unexpected connection with George Soros funded NGOs like the Open Society Institute of which one of the Board, Ken Anderson was General Counsel.

    Actually, Mr. Boxwell’s done a much better job identifying HRF, and with fewer words.

    This one sounds like a black-tie feel-good affair, nicely timed for the Oscars, but, while Hollywood branding or parties may be nice, accuracy in the media is better, and right now what we’ve heard from Ms. Montero and Sr. Iszcaray, and their fellows, is only part of the story. For every demonstration of 20,000 or 40,000, or whatever in Caracas, the other side seems to match it with more, and yet that and the anti-government street violence remain unreported in Hollywood and our fabled media, while cries of “atrocities” about the government response abound. And now with their unrelenting McCarthyite attacks on Dudamel, one might ask, ‘have they no shame’? As for Ukraine, when a constitutionally elected President, whether or not incompetent, is removed by unconstitutional means, and by neo-nazi thugs no less, as a return on a $5 billion anti-government investment made by a NATO member government (ours)- or, at least that was the number indiscreetly cited by our “FU-EU” Ambassadress to the EU Viktoria Nuland- then maybe something stinks to high heaven. Elsewhere, if this is any clue, should we expect a renewed NATO plan to attack Syria, and/or neocon efforts to sabotage a nuclear deal with Iran and a just and lasting peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians?

    And the awardees? What’s not to love about Susan Sarandon or some of the others (even at their age), but don’t be fooled by the glitz, or ignore the political agenda behind it. The issues they don’t, or won’t touch may be much more important than the images of those they do.

  • MWnyc says:

    I still don’t understand why people won’t accept Dudamel’s desire to remain neutral so as to keep Venezuelan politics away from El Sistema.

    He is the international poster boy for El Sistema (in a way that Montero is not). If Dudamel were to make Maduro (or Chavez before him) angry, would you really trust either of those gentlemen not to penalize or close down El Sistema in a fit of temper?

    I know I wouldn’t. And Dudamel, who presumably knows those gentlemen better than I do, clearly doesn’t trust them that way either. So I’m inclined to defer to his judgment.

    • Robert Jones says:

      Here’s my bet to you: if things continue going south in Venezuela and violence expands, Dudamel is going to have to make a public call one way or another. I’m actually surprised that a government like the Venezuelan government hasn’t made him make a statement against the opposition and the “attempts of cu de etat” against the government. I also think that El Sistema has been hurt badly in the public opinion of the opposition in Venezuela (remember that they were the 49% in the Maduro election). If the Maduro government ever falls (it will be nasty and they will fight to the end even if they lose in an election BTW) I’m afraid of what is going to happen with El Sistema as an institution. Just reading the news and opinions, everything is polarized. Dudamel and El Sistema people are going to have a hard time doing the very successful political maneuvers that they’ve done in the past.

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        But El Sistema is not a Maduro creation. When those who voted against Maduro voted, they voted against him, not against El Sistema, right?

        • Robert Jones says:

          El Sistema has been financed for the past 15 years by the Chavez and Maduro governments. By being with them even without having to make a statement of being part of the government, the El Sistema leadership is now tainted like every other Chavez and Maduro sympathizer. Before the radicalization of the opposition (or anybody else that might have been neutral before) and the government happened there was lots of room for people like the El Systema leadership to play. This won’t be like this anymore. It is a new Venezuela and it’s unfortunate for El Sistema leadership.

      • MWnyc says:

        Robert Jones: “I’m actually surprised that a government like the Venezuelan government hasn’t made him make a statement against the opposition and the “attempts of cu de etat” against the government.”

        They may have tried, and if he did, he refused. Just as Abreu evidently did whenever he was asked. To my knowledge (someone please correct me if this isn’t true), Abreu has never said anything about any Venezuelan government, opposition, or any other political issue except as it directly concerns El Sistema. In fact, as I understand it, Abreu has always insisted that that be the case, and he says that that’s the reason El Sistema has survived so long: El Sistema is funded by the government, just as, for instance, primary schools are – and like primary schools, no one sees El Sistema as allied with any political faction.

        If Abreu or Dudamel were to break that rule even once, it would be broken for good, and El Sistema would never be insulated from politics again.

        • Robert Jones says:

          It’s a new time in Venezuela. People are radicalized. Whatever happens will dampen Abreu/Dudamel’s stand. No more in between.

  • Cambridge says:

    Frankly, when one looks into the background of some of these awards they are a joke. After all, didn’t Obama get the Nobel Peace Prize just for being elected?

  • A CIA Gold Star or a “Fox News Righty” might be a better award than a human rights Oscar. The HRF’s founder is Thor Halvorssen Mendoza. He was also the first Executive Director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education which is involved with countering “liberal bias” on university campuses. This interview of Halvorssen by Sean Hannity on Fox News says something about his political orientation:


    Thor also founded a documentary film company called the Moving Picture Institute. The New York Times provides an amusing description of their work:

    “At a time when the most successful documentaries on political or social issues all seem to be anti-corporate, anti-Bush, pro-environmentalist and left-leaning, the Moving Picture Institute has backed pro-business, anti-Communist and even anti-environmentalist ones. The latest, “Indoctrinate U,” follows the first-time filmmaker Evan Coyne Maloney as he turns Michael Moore’s guerrilla interview tactics on their head to address what he sees as political correctness on campus. In one scene, Mr. Maloney strolls into the women’s studies centers on several campuses and, playing innocent, asks directions to the men’s studies center.” (“A Maverick Mogul, Proudly Politically Incorrect,” August 19, 2007.)

    Thor’s father, Thor Halvorssen Hellum, who comes from one of the richest families in Venezuela, was the drug czar during the administration of Carlos Andrés Pérez in the seventies where he worked closely with the DEA and CIA. He also worked with the CIA in El Salvador and Nicaragua during the dirty war of the eighties and was a close collaborator of Contra leader, Adolfo Calero. Ironically, the Contras were known for their brutal abuses, which only adds to the suspicions surrounding his son’s Human Rights Foundation and who it’s anonymous backers might be.

    My concern is that the HRF largely ignores American abuses of human rights, which is definitely a form of bias.

    If you can list significant and specific examples where the HRF *itself* has clearly criticized American or American sponsored human rights abuses, most of my concerns will be alleviated. By this, I mean such things as the American use of torture in interrogations, special renditions, kidnapping people off the streets of sovereign countries like Italy, and extra-judicial off shore compounds like Guantanamo Bay and black-op prisons in Eastern Europe, Iraq, and Afghanistan where people are held indefinitely with little hope of fair trials.

    What has the HRF said about major abuses like the US backed genocide against the Mayans in Guatemala which reached its height under the Reagan administration and in which about 300,000 people were mass murdered? (For a brief summary of those horrific events see my comment at this Slipped Disk blog:


    What has the HRF said about the obvious and extensive abuses of human rights the US committed or backed in the recent wars in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Iraq, and Afghanistan?

    I appreciate political activism in the arts, but the HRF’s actions are one-sided which makes its historical links to the CIA through Thor Halvorssen Hellum discomforting. I wish Gabriella and her husband would take a broader approach to human rights abuses in Latin America.

  • Sam McElroy says:

    William, you are absolutely right to say that Human Rights organizations should target all human rights abuses, wherever they occur. We could not agree more. And to focus on one area of abuse is not to deny the existence of abuse elsewhere. Nor does Gabriela ally herself to any particular organization or even political party. She has never met anyone from the HRF, and this “nomination” had nothing to do with her.

    The situation is really quite simple. Gabriela sees what is going on in her native Venezuela, and what her country has become as the result of 15 years of inept politics. She, and the hundreds of thousands on the streets these days, have had enough. She wants the daily murder to end, the corruption, the kidnapping, the theft and the breakdown of her nation into a chaotic, failing state. Seems reasonable to me. She is also smart enough to know that achieving these aims requires personal sacrifice – conscience before career – and the courage to fight publicly and loudly in the media, because you can not defeat brutality with a Chopin ballade at the Vienna Konzerthaus. Would it were so!

    She never attacked any fellow musicians in her public appeal to them. She simply tried to rally them from the comfortable excuse of neutrality, because neutrality is just that – acquiescent, limp, ineffectual, permissive, enabling and ultimately harmful. Hasn’t history taught us that by now? She called for those who can do so to speak out, baring in mind, too, that their political involvement is far more entrenched than the claim of neutrality would have us believe.

    The problem she faces is the utilitarian attitude towards morality as expressed by contributors like MWnyc above, who suggests that keeping the state sponsor happy, in order for El Sistema to continue its good work, is more important than saving the nation which surrounds it. This is pure ends-justifying-means talk, the stuff of Machiavelli. And she rejects it loudly and bravely. It seems perfectly reasonable to me, too, that at a time of crisis, when the nation is collapsing, any citizen with a public voice should use it to cry for help and solidarity to save the nation as a whole, rather than focussing solely on their narrower goals. Let’s be clear here, we are not talking about simply expressing political leanings. We are talking about saving a nation from the disaster it is becoming as the Cubans take an ever-tighter hold.

    As Gabriela has expressed elsewhere, when the Titanic went down, the quartet went down, too. El Sistema is weeks away from sinking into bankruptcy along with the rest of the nation. The nation sank long ago into hellish social disorder. But if people still feel that artists with iconic positions in society should just keep playing Tchaikovsky as though nothing is happening, then so be it. Who is Gabriela to change their minds? But she is a fighter, not an enabler. That’s all there is to it. And she will keep fighting for Venezuela. Her career and making music matter not one morsel to her alongside the right of her people to live in a functioning, civilized democracy.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful response, Sam. Like most people around the world, I have no doubts that the hearts of you and Gabriella are in the right place, even if our strategies for approaching the problems in Venezuela and Latin America might differ.

      As Gabriella notes, the number of murders in Venezuela are absolutely appalling. I also think of Mexico where 70,000 people have died in the so-called Drug War. Ciudad Juarez (not far from where I grew up) has the highest murder rate in the world. Columbia has the highest kidnap rate in Latin America.

      Many studies have shown that crime is epidemic in Latin America. The Pan American Health Organization called violence in Latin America “the social pandemic of the 20th century.” Ironically, this sort of crime has risen sharply as Latin America has moved away from authoritarian regimes toward more democratic forms of government. It has also increased in spite of enormous investments in public and private security and a marked increase in the prison population.

      This highly complex issue needs to be analyzed from various perspectives: the economy, social development, culture, education and values, among others. In several Latin America countries there is also a highly divided class system between a small wealthy elite of Spanish heritage and a large population of poor people, many of whom are of mixed race.

      High levels of social inequality, low rates of economic growth, high unemployment rates, the rapid growth of large cities and metropolitan areas, the absence or weakness of basic urban infrastructure, the wide availability of arms and drugs, the growing presence of organized crime, poor police and justice systems, and poor public education all contribute significantly to the problems with crime and social and political injustice.

      Historically, the Untied States has exploited these weaknesses for its own ends, and thus has done little to help alleviate these problems. In fact, in recent years neo-liberal trade policies have contributed significantly to exacerbating the problems. We have seen a counter-reaction to this in numerous countries including not only Cuba, but also in Bolivia, Venezuela, Argentina, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Chile, among others. It is unlikely that political and social stability in Latin America will be achieved as long as exploitation by the USA continues. Unfortunately, the ranting of clowns like Chavez only discredited those working to solve these problems in legitimate ways.

      I should add one last note. In spite of a great deal of propaganda, there is little evidence that Cubans are moving Venezuela toward communism. The BBC provide a good report about the Cuban situation in Venezuela here:


      Anyway, best of luck with your efforts. There is room for many views concerning the complex problems in Latin America. Many of the conflicts and misunderstandings lie in differing cultural views, so it is essential that artists be included in the dialog.

    • MWnyc says:

      Gabriela Montero is a brave soul as well as an excellent musician. The nation of Venezuela and the world are lucky to have her. (And I note that Gustavo Dudamel has never once tried to tell her in public what to do about Venezuela or anything else.)

      As for whether preserving El Sistema is more important than saving the country around it, I think Gustavo’s point is that he’s not willing to make that decision for all the hundreds of thousands of other people involved in it.

      Especially since, realistically, the sacrifice of El Sistema would probably not save the nation. It would only destroy El Sistema.

  • ed says:

    Thank you for clarifying these issues and relationships, and in such detail. We are so often bombarded by misinformation and disinformation that we simply can’t get at the facts or context.

    • ed says:

      My applause here was meant for Mr. Osborne and his first comment. The U.S. tried to overthrow Chavez since Day (1), and a primary reason was oil and his doubling of the government paltry royalty of 16% to approximately 30%, at a time when the Saudis and the other gangster nations in the Middle East had been charging a multiple of that increased rate. Those monies were used to reduce poverty, and increase literacy, health care and education for the poor. There is no doubt the State is now suffering economically, but if the opposition wants to pretend the U.S. has not been actively sabotaging the economy and infrastructure, and that has not contributed to the government response, then it is being disingenuous. It is possible the government will fall, and then maybe we’ll see a purging as happened under Videla, Pinochet, and other Latin American dictatorships that waged dirty wars and in some cases massacred tens of thousands of their people, and Ms. Montera will be able to play the Revolutionary Etude, and Mr. Izcaray will be able to conduct the Eroica Symphony or Shostakovich’s 5th (with their mixed messages) in celebration of it. The U.S. policy has been not to assist any regime that has sought some measure of independence from it, but to fund counterrevolutions to protect its multinational corporations and force regime change. Would it not have been better for the U.S. to have cooperated, provided economic and technical assistance, and tried in other meaningful ways to improve the standard of living for everyone in those countries? Well, maybe it’s no longer in our political DNA, if the attitude of our oligarchs and health of our own country is any measure.

  • Cambridge says:

    I fully accept Ms Montero’s right to attack the regime in her country. However, To also attack the actions of another musician who is actually living there when she is not, seems somewhat obtuse. The only thing Dudamel could really do is to leave the country and where would that leave the young people in the orchestra?

  • Luis E. Gonzalez says:

    While students and many other Venezuelans were being killed or arrested by the army and by mercenaries under the orders of Mr. Maduro, an unconstitutional and brutal president , Mr. Dudamel was again playing to dignify the image of Mr. Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution; a revolution responsible for the destruction of the country´s democratic and productive institutions, and the murder of many Venezuelans every year. The assumption that musicians should be great examples of humanity does not apply to Mr. Dudamel. It is even worse, he is supporting and he is strongly supported by this communist revolution. The communist revolutions need to produce icons and revolutions are master on this art, by producing fictitious icons, even above people with unquestionable authority. It will do good for Venezuela if Mr. Dudamel express his support for the patriotic students struggling and dying for all of us so as to have a democratic government, a democratic and prosperous country. It will do good if he denounce Maduro and his brutal regime.

    • MWnyc says:

      What good, exactly, would it do for Dudamel to denounce the Maduro regime?

      Maduro has already shown that he’s willing to have people murdered in the street in order to hang on to power; he’s not going to change what he’s doing, let alone resign the presidency, just because some curly-haired guy waving a stick says he should. Doesn’t matter how famous the stick-waver is in rich countries.

      El Sistema has lasted as long as it has, through all the changes of government and political turmoil, only because Jose Antonio Abreu has been very strict about staying completely out of politics (except where it concerns keeping El Sistema functioning and funded).

      Gustavo Dudamel is more identified with El Sistema in the public mind than any other individual on Earth save Abreu himself. If he speaks against Maduro, it will be taken as El Sistema speaking against Maduro, whether Dudamel intends it that way or not. Then El Sistema is no longer apolitical, which means some future Venezuelan leader will shut it down even if Maduro doesn’t.

      • Robert Jones says:

        Unfortunately for El Sistema and Dudamel, there’s no neutral position in Venezuela anymore and this thread is an example of this. You are either with the government or against it. If you don’t say anything (and you are paid or financed by the government especially) the opposition will infer that you are with the government. This counts the private media, people working in private companies that the government somehow pays, etc. The middle ground in Venezuela is over. Dudamel and El Sistema are going to have to say something soon if they want to stay with the government, especially if all goes even more South than what it is right now. I can also see another way here: if something like Ukraine happens in Venezuela I can see them quickly defending the new government but it will be too late IMO.

        • MWnyc says:

          So you’re saying that if Maduro is impeached, resigns or is overthrown, the next government will punish or even disband El Sistema for having been collaborators with the Chavez/Maduro regime?

          • Robert Jones says:

            When things are so radicalized some people win and some lose. Abreu was able to manipulate the change of governments very well over the years. The reason was that the society wasn’t that divided. This is a new Venezuela and it will be painful regardless. I don’t know what will happen but it is clear that many in Venezuela that are with the opposition are now seeing El Sistema or at least its leader(s) as Chavistas/Maduristas. Therefore I would be surprised if at least there’s much more control in the funding for El Sistema (extremely well funded) and will make Abreu’s live very difficult in deed. To the point of resigning and disbanding el Sistema? Not sure.

  • Andrew says:

    I hope this thread has demonstrated that classical music and politics don’t mix. While pop music is most certainly infused with politics, messages of the mundane and protest, classical music only suffers when it is co-opted by either protesters or governments and turned in to propaganda or the artists are forced to become mouthpieces for propaganda. When we take political stands, which is our duty only to our consciences, it is as citizens, like anyone else. It is also our right to remain silent and to not be coerced by others. If we assume the present Venezuelan leadership is deeply flawed, it does not necessarily mean it’s most vocal opponents aren’t also corrupt, possibly even puppets of an external interest. The Ukraine crisis has been falsely positioned by the media as a binary choice between pro-Russina and pro-EU populations whereas , there is also a vast traditionalist conservative voice that wants neither of those but hasn’t gotten it’s message heard by the world. My point is that Venezuela may be a highly convoluted mess, not a binary choice and Dudamel may realize that his power and interests are limited to the immediate welfare of music in his country. He is neither a puppet nor a punching bag. He is a good man doing good work.

    • Gonout Backson says:

      Today’s events prove spectacularly what the real core of the Ukrainian crisis is. Venezuela is luckier in this respect: even if President Maduro calls for a “brotherly help”, no one will send his helicopters to help him.

      As for the “music and politics don’t mix” approach, I hope to find it whole and pure at the next turn of the “Furtwaengler controversy”.

  • Gabriela Montero says:

    Some more information today for SD readers, from The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/23/venezuela-protests-thuggery-pretty-revolution

    This is what we are up against. This is why I am fighting. This is why silence is not an option for me any more, and neutrality and complicity are morally unacceptable. It is no longer about the comfort of personal choice, but the uncomfortable call of civic duty.



    • Michael Schaffer says:

      So what could Dudamel really achieve by speaking out? I am told by people who know far more about this than I do that in his current position, Dudamel can at least do some good behind the scenes, and that he wants to protect El Sistema because it does a lot of good for a lot of young people – are those all just excuses? Wouldn’t it be very easy for Dudamel to just leave and pursue his international career? What good would him burning the bridges into the system do the cause?

      • Gonout Backson says:

        Simple: he would deprive the system (not the country) of a symbol it desperately needs. Dudamel doesn’t need Maduro, Madur needs him. The enormous vague of musical emigrants of the 70s made laughing stock of the USSR, since music was one of the imperial glories (while Goskontsert’s thugs were publicly robbing Richter and Co). Free, democratic countries don’t mind, they can be laughed at, even be shamed, without falling apart. Tyrannies, especially ideological tyrannies as the one Venezuela suffers, can’t bear it. Dudamel’s refusal to support Maduro would be a wonderful gesture, and a much less dangerous and radical one than what Rostropovich did in the seventies. No one would dare to take his passport away. He would just be insulted by these people as some “lackey of imperialism”, as they always do – big deal. He would be in excellent company.

        • Anon says:

          Gounot – I think you overstate the case somewhat. Maduro doesn’t need the Dude, and I doubt Maduro really cares either way. Outside of musical circles, no-one else is going to care too much either. Dudamel speaking out, leaving or whatever you want him to do would make no difference at all.

          (Personally, in the UK I am more concerned that senior Labour politicians who openly embraced Maduro’s regime refuse to say anything against it; these are politicians and it is their job to to speak. Their inexplicable silence is a far worse crime than Dudamel, who is a musicians first and foremost, not a politician)

          • Gonout Backson says:

            You could be right, but then again – maybe not. I know from experience that regimes of this kind are extremely touchy and Dudamel is probably the most famous Venezuelan artist today. As for the Labour politicians – I cannot agree with you more. They’re not the only ones in Europe. The great myths of “revolution” and “liberation” are still very much alive on the Western Left. They usually fight their revolutionary wars to the last… (put here any name of a foreign nation, preferably far and away).

        • MWnyc says:

          When Rostropovich and Vishnevskaya resisted the Soviet government, the only people whose well-being they were risking were themselves and their children. Maybe their parents if they were still alive by then.

          Dudamel has to worry about repercussions to the entire Sistema – which has survived and kept its funding all these years precisely because (as has been reported in virtually every profile of the program and/or Abreu in the English-language press) it stays the hell out of politics.

          One might argue that Maduro would never dare to punish or defund El Sistema because of anything Dudamel said, anymore than the Brezhnev regime would have dared punish or defund the Bolshoi because of Rostropovich’s and Vishnevskaya’s resistance; the risks involved in damaging the Bolshoi would have far outweighed the rewards.

          But I don’t think rational risk-reward calculation has ever been a strong point of the Chavez-Maduro regime. That’s why I can’t blame Dudamel for being very cautious.

  • MWnyc says:

    I wonder if anyone has called for Jose Antonio Abreu to speak out against the Maduro regime.

  • Michael Schaffer says:

    And where does that leave people like Simon Rattle or the late Claudio Abbado both of whom have been involved with and supported El Sistema, are/were they now lackeys of the Venezuelan regime, too?

  • Lefébure says:

    What is this stupid LA human rights ” Oscars” ? When so many people are being killed and attacked at the moment, what is the use of recognizing ANYONE for making an appeal and pleading for peace? Has anything changed for the better in Venezuela since she had made an appeal other than that now there is more heated discussion over this matter and maybe more people from musical community paying attention to Venezuela’s horrendous political situation? No one is the winner or hero until he or she acts as an effective mediator to this situation!!! While I appreciate Montero’s brave statements to Abreu and Dudamel, I also think that she is no better than any one of them. If you really and truly care about your country, go there, fight together, like Rostropovich once stood up for his country.

    • Gonout Backson says:

      Rostropovich left, you know… And fought from abroad.

      • Lefébure says:

        Gonout, Rostropovich left after he had been discreetly fighting and he continued to fight even after his exile. He did not leave first and then fought. Ordering of words is important. Also “left” is not an appropriate word for Rostropovich or other refugees out of the Soviet Union. A more proper word “exile.” Is Montero banned to enter the country or had her citizenship revoked? (I am not sure if she gained a naturalized citizenship in some country or still carrying the Venezuelan citizenship. Actually this is none of my concern because I love her artistry and admire her music. ) Rospropovich’s citizenship was revoked, and he was ignored by many of his Russian colleagues because of his exile. There was a very dark moment in his life caused by his political choices. Also he had to face significant difficulties in carrying on his musical activities. Does Ms. Montero face this kind of situation?

        • Gonout Backson says:

          Of course, je continued to fight after his exile – that’s exactly what I mean. I see no difference, and certainly no contradiction between “leaving” and “going into exile”, you have to do the one to do the other… Rostropovich hasn’t been banned, like Solzhenitsyn, he went abroad and stayed there. Montero isn’t either, but I wonder what her fate would be, had she chosen to go back (“person or persons unknown” are easy to find there…).

          But we are not talking about Ms Montero’s political choices, but of Mr Dudamel’s. If Ms Montero’s situation is easier than Rostropovich’s was, so is, and much more so, Mr Dudamel’s situation, a much bigger name.

          What I find very surprising – I have mentioned it before – is that there is no shortage of uncompromising people to condemn Furtwaengler, and so few to condemn Mr Dudamel (both staying to protect their musicians and letting a disgusting regime use their names), let alone Mr Gergiev, wonderfully silent these last weeks, while his powerful protector invades a foreign country using once again a classical, Nazi pretext and a propaganda campaign which would give Dr Goebbels a bad name.