Dudamel is named ‘a collaborator’ with torture regime

Dudamel is named ‘a collaborator’ with torture regime


norman lebrecht

May 06, 2015

The US-based pianist and composer Gabriela Montero has launched her fiercest attack yet on the political involvement of El Sistema and its leaders with the unpleasant regime that rules her native country, Venezuela.

Montero, Venezuela’s best-know female musician, describes the regime’s institutional violence, racism and abuse and argues that El Sistema is complicit by acting as a propaganda instrument. She describes Gustavo Dudamel as ‘the face of Sistema’ and says that ‘what he does is collaboration’.

Read the interview here (auf Deutsch).

montero ex patria

Montero’s new recording of her Venezuela lament, ‘Ex Patria’, is released today.

The Caracas government has announced plans to nationalise food distribution, with the aim of controlling widespread shortages.



  • enemigopublico says:

    Gabriela Montero is very brave to pursue this campaign single-handedly (many other Venezuelan musicians think the same but won’t say so publicly). There was another, much longer article on the same topic this week by Axel Brüggemann in the German magazine Cicero. I’m glad to see Norman publicizing this article, as the English-speaking press has largely washed its hands of the big issues around Dudamel and El Sistema. What Montero says is common knowledge in Venezuela. Why do so many journalists write puff pieces about this subject rather than researching what’s actually going on?

    • Petros LInardos says:

      Totally agree. We need more artists as principled and articulate as Gabriella Montero. Thank you Mr. Lebrecht for publicizing this interview.

  • Ray Richardson says:

    You say you are ‘glad to see Norman publicisizing this article, as the English-speaking press has largely washed its hands of the big issues around Dudamel and El Sistema.’ However, the non-German English-speaking folk who visit this site are still in the dark. Perhaps you or NL could offer us a summary.

  • JayPee says:

    But when Valentina Lisitsa supports Putin and uses nazi-like terminology to describes Ukrainians, all she does is merely exercising freedom of speech.

    • tess says:

      That is because Montero expresses her political views through distinguished artistic and creative expression and not through maniacal, vulgar, fascist ramblings such as Lisitsa.

    • KeyboardCity says:

      The only parallel to be drawn between Valentina Lisitsa and Gabriela Montero is that they are both 2nd rate pianists who resorted to secondary means to launch their careers — Lisitsa through Youtube/social media, and Montero through her improvising skills – so both careers will eventually run out of steam anyway. Lisitsa could have found a more dignified way to point out that both sides of the Russian-Ukranian conflict are perpetrating atrocities, and Montero is aware that Dudamel is perhaps the only top-level conductor to have engaged her (and he is no longer doing so). In the case of both pianists, their seemingly heroic championing of such causes exposes a desperate self-serving agenda – one which, even if justified, will eventually backfire on them.

      • enemigopublico says:

        How is criticizing the people who hold all the cards in Venezuelan music a self-serving agenda? If Montero wanted to pursue a self-serving agenda, she would kiss Sistema ass and shut up about politics, like so many other leading Venezuelan musicians.

        • Frankster says:

          Is anyone suggesting that politicians would follow a self-serving agenda? Can’t believe that at all. Never happens! Ever! That would also include the present Venezuelan president, elected by a democratic vote. (paste smiley face here)
          Dudamel has kept his distance from the regime and avoided political statements. Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Orchestra had two high profile, critically praised and sold concerts in the Paris Philharmonie last month. Another impressive graduate, Rafael Payare, conduct the Vienna Philharmonic in Paris in January with major success.

          • enemigopublico says:

            “Dudamel has kept his distance from the regime.” False.

            “and avoided political statements.” True.

            “Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Orchestra had two high profile, critically praised and sold concerts in the Paris Philharmonie last month. Another impressive graduate, Rafael Payare, conduct the Vienna Philharmonic in Paris in January with major success.” Utterly irrelevant in this context.

          • Olaugh Turchev says:

            Dudamel has kept his distance from the regime?… as a Chavez pallbearer? Call it arm length!

    • T-ARAFANBOY says:

      Please correct me if I am wrong Jaypee, but Tess seems to be assuming you are comparing Lisitsa to Gabriela? I however take it that you are comparing Lisitsa’s outspoken remarks to Dudamel’s silence?

      • JayPee says:

        “Please correct me if I am wrong Jaypee, but Tess seems to be assuming you are comparing Lisitsa to Gabriela? I however take it that you are comparing Lisitsa’s outspoken remarks to Dudamel’s silence?”

        You are correct.

  • Alvaro Mendizabal says:

    Am I the only one who sees that the ONLY news that Ms. Montero nowadays makes is to bash her country and ‘El Sistema’, rather than any creative efforts?

    Looks like the whole ‘improvisation’ show grew old and she’s in scarcity of ideas. She now needs to hold onto something else to remain in the conversation.

    • V.Lind says:

      You’re not. I’ve thought the same for some time. Reminds me of the rightwing Cubans in the US who to this day resist any attempts to ease relations with Cuba, forsaking their chance to go home or see family and friends left behind in their fanatical opposition to the brothers Castro.

    • enemigopublico says:

      You’re assuming that the published article is a complete transcript of the interview. If you’ve ever been interviewed yourself, you’ll know that’s not what happens. The published version is probably 10% of what Montero actually said. It seems like the journalist latched onto the Dudamel stuff.

      • Alvaro Mendizabal says:

        Lets see…HER CD, & the TITLE OF HER “COMPOSITION” is about her rants about her “ex?” Country!!!!!!!

        But yeah, im only imagining things. Its 100% pure, good-old taking advantage of the status quo in order to try to remain relevant.

  • Anonne says:

    So what happened to this fellow graduate of the programme, and student of Abreu himself? Raised in the years of the utterly corrupt Perez regime, her distaste for anything since has the scent of the rabid Miami Cubans who yearn for the good old days of Batista.

  • Anonne says:

    1. “Named a collaborator” has an official ring to it. Montero has shot her mouth off again, on her favourite topic — that’s all.

    2. She herself is a graduate of El Sistema and a former pupil of Abreu himself. But she was raised in the days of Perez, corruption incarnate. Her distaste for anything since has the scent of the rabid Miami Cubans who long for a return of Batista, or Nicaraguans who yearn for the good old days of Samoza.

    And I don’t find her language that much less extreme than Lisitsa’s: so far she has spared us some of the more vulgar rantings of the latter, but she is pretty shrill and particularly vicious to a Venezuelan who has had more success than she. She has given me no reason to consider her freedom of speech and activity any more important than his.

  • Gabriela Montero says:

    For the record:

    I am NOT a pupil of Abreu.
    I am NOT a pupil of El Sistema.
    I am NOT a fascist.

    I am a witness.

    I am a witness to the wholesale destruction of my native country by some of the world’s most corrupt officials.

    I am a witness to levels of murder which can only be categorized today as genocidal.

    I am a witness to the imprisonment of opposition leaders for daring to protest these unlivable conditions.

    As I write this, I am leaving my family to fly to Mexico City, where I will be giving a FREE concert for Amnesty International to join that same protest.

    At that concert I will play a piece I wrote, at considerable personal cost, to transmit through music the misery to which Venezuelans are subjected today.

    If I spend so much time on the Venezuelan crisis, perhaps people might consider that this is indicative of, and commensurate with, the scale of the crisis itself. It is not how I imagined apportioning my resources as an artist, a human being and a mother, but it is a necessary consequence of the human disaster faced by Venezuelans today.

    That the press chooses to represent my advocacy for the Venezuelan people as a slugfest between me and Gustavo Dudamel is only another obstacle I face. Dudamel’s actions, omissions and associations speak for themselves.

    The real story is the Venezuelan story. Please, focus on IT.

  • Gustavo Coronel says:

    Gabriela Montero follows on the footsteps of Chopin, Casals, Rostropovich, in their love of country, freedom and justice. She has decided that humans are in one piece, cannot be divided into musicians and politicians, the reasoning of those who are not brave enough to take a stand in life

  • Si says:

    Gabriela Montero’s opinion is that of the rich European elites of Venezuela who no longer can plunder the vast oil wealth for their personal benefits. Gabriela Montero represents the desire of the oligarchy of Venezuela to return to power. Gabriela Montero has extended herself at the services of the United States State Department for the sole purpose to overthrow the Bolivarian Revolution. Gabriela Montero plain and simply lies. The fact remains that there was an attempted putsch led by the political representative of the Venezuelan oligarchy. They incited riots which cause the deaths of many people including police. In the riot, they burned hospitals, schools and food distribution centers which supported and gave benefits to poor Venezuelans. Gabriela Montero is entirely self serving and a puppet of the Venezuelan oligarchy. She has never condemned these crimes and many were committed by the fascist elements. It is very sad that Gabriela Montero has made common cause with the fascist.

    • Carmen Helena Tellez says:

      Please do not forget that Hugo Chavez attempted to overthrow the democratically elected government of Carlos Andres Perez by a putsch. Paradoxically– for you– El Sistema was founded under the auspices of the very same Carlos Andres Perez. It will be very difficult to discern the true nature of such a complex phenomenon as El Sistema when the facts are not observed for what they are. The tragedy of Chavismo in Venezuela is clear for all who wish to see. The corruption supersedes anything seen in the Perez government. A wealthy country has been run to the ground. Families have been dismembered. Crime is rampant. Opposition leaders are in jail. Musical and cultural organizations other than El Sistema barely survive or are overrun by government cronies. El Sistema has achieved great things for all to see, at a great price. They dance with the devil everyday, probably because they believe they have to. Music is a social art that depends on money. I know many good musicians who toil for ElSistema. At this point, many whose living depends on Chavismo will have to remain quiet. Many whose talent shields them from all guilt will someday lose youth and charm and be forced to justify themselves. Fashions change. Given all that, it does not seem fair or even logical to accuse the immensely talented Gabriela Montero to use her political position to advance her career, when today El Sistema and Dudamel hold the power. You must admit that she is brave. Unfortunately, I am afraid that only time and history will bring clarity to this story. However, many who hold romantic views of Chavismo and El Sistema outside of Venezuela have never lived in Venezuela or are seekibg to gain from the current fashion of Sistema-like projects sprouting everywhere else, as if this was the first time in history that the arts have been used to rescue children at risk. It is possibly the first time, however, that such a program has been endowed with so many hundreds of millions of dollars from a government. Has it been worth it? I for one would love to see a young woman conductor promoted in El Sistema. Or young composers. Where are they?

  • will says:

    ‘Well Said’, Gustavo Coronel!

  • T-ARAFANBOY says:

    People can say what they want about Dudamel, they don’t have the responsibility for +500k Venezuelan kids’ futures…
    Dudamel is first and foremost a musician, why should he be forced to get involved in politics? His job, which he does very well, is not an easy one, there’s already so much responsibility there. Is every mega pop star, celebrity, sportsman, great banker also a great humanist, a hero for human rights or whatever issue at hand?
    Dudamel is what he is, so just let him be.
    Incidently I’ve known so many ‘great’ men/women, leaders in their field, scientists, opinion leaders who, seriously, don’t seem to give a damn about anything other than the company share price or their frequent flyer miles (-_-). So why so many expectations from Dudamel?
    Dudamel has an ernormous musical talent to nurture, why should he be a super hero in every dimension?

  • Paul Lanfear says:

    I really think people should be more careful when applying words such as “fascist” or “genocidal”. Genocide is the systematic extermination of an ethnic or cultural group. As bad as it is, there is nothing systematic or ethnically-directed about the murder rate in Caracas and to use the word for emotive purpose is wrong. Similarly to simply refer to right-wing conservatives and racists as fascist is wrong. The previous regimes were oligarchies, just as both the USA and Putin’s Russian Federation are oligarchies. There may be fascist traits on all sides, but the term should not be abused. Venezuela was never Pinochet’s Chile or even Uribe’s Colombia….and there is nothing from either Gabriela Montero or Valentina Lisitsa that I’ve seen that remotely qualifies as “fascist”.

    • Gonout Backson says:

      The comparison between the USA and the Russian Federation disqualifies everything you write.

  • William Stribling says:

    Another extremist right wing post here – the rabid (you) right wing music cabal does not have a hammer hold on classical music – or any other kind – Nazis in Germany didn’t get away with it, why should the slipped disc owners. Really trashy stuff on Dedamel and Venezuela you’re posting. Grow up;.

  • CDH says:

    I don’t see that anyone on here called you a fascist. Guess you have heard it elsewhere. Or have a guilty conscience.You have chosen sides, which is your right, but it does not immunise you from criticism for that choice any more than the people you criticise are immune from you and those who share your views.

    But you might want to temper your language: I am aware of no “genocide” in Venezuela. Perhaps you ought to look it up. And words like “collaborate” are politically loaded and do have specific meanings. I do not think you have that case on Gustavo Dudamel, whatever his political allegiance — which seems to me to be appreciation for a system that is turning out good musicians and making great music, with the Simon Bolivar Orchestra, throughout the world. After your oligarchical mates got the push, he might have been concerned that El Sistema was in danger, but the Chavez government, for whatever reason, wholeheartedly endorsed it and continued to support it, and Dudamel’s presence at Chavez’ funeral might have been in some token a symbolic acknowledgement of that and a kind of action to ensure the continuity of such government support under Maduro.

    And you may not have studied with Abreu and El Sistema, but you played with the Youth Orchestra under his baton, did you not? So it is all right for you to use them when it suits you but to cast vitriol on what has been, in the net, a great undertaking, emulated in many places in the world and envied by those who cannot afford to replicate its efforts.

    I think comments comparing you to a certain type of expatriate Cubans seem very close to the mark. But even their most extreme mouthpieces, like the late and unlamented Jorge Mas Canosa, stopped short of accusing the Cuban government of genocide.

  • Gabriela Montero says:

    Dear CDH,

    I have made it very clear in the past that I welcome the support for music education systems worldwide, whether by states or the private sector. If you dig into the video archives, you will see that I enjoyed many concerts as a guest soloist with the orchestras of El Sistema. Indeed, as you correctly state, I made my concerto debut, not as a pupil of El Sistema or of Abreu, but under his baton. Let me also add that I have nothing but the fondest memories of my relationship with music and musicians in Venezuela, an affection which goes a long way to explain the depth of my regret at the current crisis.

    But that affection was eroded when Chavez purchased El Sistema as an instrument of propaganda. “Support” and “purchase” are distinguishable by the extent to which control is exercised in the exchange. The overt, pro-revolution messaging in overseas cities, using potent symbols (the new flag), pamphlets and symposia, far over-reaches the noble ideal of “support”. Our young musicians became emissaries for a political ideology, and not simply for music. And not by default but by design.

    That ideology has destroyed our nation. I can not imagine there is one sane analyst today who would attempt to argue otherwise. The “genocide” to which I refer is not an organized extermination of any particular race by the government, — of course not. It is the indiscriminate murder by Venezuelans of each other in obscene numbers – numbers (70,000 in the last three years alone) which rank Venezuela alongside war zones – which lead me to apply such potent vocabulary. This is the tragic legacy of hatred and moral breakdown left by Chavismo.

    Finally, I have also said many times in the past that I fully embrace the idea of a free, open, inclusive, fair and unified Venezuela. The corruption of old is no more acceptable than the corruption of today. My criticism of Chavismo for failing to make use of our unprecedented commodities boom to realize that dream, and to create a new and insidious oligarchy instead, does not preclude me from indulging it. I – like you, I suspect – yearn for that Venezuela: one in which we can live in security, with dignity, with civility, and with regard and opportunity for each and every member of society. If we had achieved that, I would have been the first to wear the flag myself.

    I hope this offers some more clarity.


  • El Grillo says:

    A person is supposed to chose sides here?

    I might mention that music when it is music isn’t poison, it’s medicine, it’s healing. And that goes where it’s needed despite politics. And would heal where taking sides never could. If you don’t see that, and how music heals emotions and relates to the involuntary mind, I don’t know what to say. I wonder if I could even say that music isn’t poison without it being being used by someone pointing to the other side saying they are using it for poison. Music is healing, it isn’t poison, and the healing remains, regardless.

    “No she is, no he is…..”

    Music is healing, and you don’t know how it is going to do that, the human ego doesn’t have that ability, the spirit may, but that’s beyond perception. You really just have to believe in it, I think.

    You mention Venezuela approaches a war zone. Well other places do not, they are war zones, and one might point out a political occasion where you played to honor someone who in the meantime has perpetuated these wars in more than one place. If someone was playing such games one could bring this up, but I actually believe in music for what it is, and don’t criticize anyone for honoring that, despite politics.

    And I don’t see Dudamel criticizing you for where and when you should have played for whatever politics anyone believes in as excuse. Maybe you should give him that right. Because it’s music.

    And I’m not even criticizing you for bringing things up that people need to know about Venezuela in order to know what’s going on rather than to be fooled by image and politics.

  • CDH says:

    I think Ms. Montero exaggerates the political content of the tours. I think most people go out to see the SBO when it visits without thinking or hearing anything about the regime. El Grillo is right here. I know when Abreu was given the Glenn Gould prize in Toronto a couple of years ago, nobody discussed the regime, just the programme and its achievements.

    I understand she has a viewpoint and personal feelings, but she may be over-seeing some of this. She does not have to like or approve Dudamel, but, again, I suggest tempered language if she is to be taken seriously.

    And I do not know what utopian Venezuela she would have me join her in. I was there in the late 1980s, where — pre-Chavez — there was a certain atmosphere of repression in the streets. I have also been to Cuba, where there were a lot of problems in recent years — not unrelated to US foreign policy, which has been ridiculous and ineffective — and US domestic policy, which has cowered in the face of overheated right wing attitudes in South Florida. But there is a spirit on the Cuba I spent time in several times in the 80s and 90s, as it went through constraints further tested by the collapse of their Soviet ally, that was far more optimistic than that of most Cubans under the previous regime. I am not a fan of countries where the divide between rich and poor is not only a problem but a philosophy.

    • Leandro says:

      CDH I think your point is clear. If Cuba is ok for you, surely Venezuela and Dudamel are not to be concerned… By the way, how did you say it? Ah, “I suggest tempered language”: it used to be brazilians dictatorship censors suggestions.