El Sistema ‘is forcing musicians’ to vote for ruling party

El Sistema ‘is forcing musicians’ to vote for ruling party


norman lebrecht

December 02, 2015

We are hearing directly and indirectly from musicians in Venezuela that they are being press-ganged into voting for the Chavista government next Sunday. The director of one of the Sistema nucleos writes:

‘They sent at 2:00 pm all the nucleos directors on a national level a form of 1×10 and told us we had one hour to fill it out. We had to write on it 10 names and identity numbers of people that we committed to take to the voting centers to vote for the Chavista party. I had to make my personnel fill them out as well. But the form also came with a couple of calls from functionaries on the 18th floor pressuring us saying it was a direct order from Eduardo Mendez and Andres Gonzalez, who are now the two managers who have the power as the Fundamusical Executive Director and Manager of Development.

‘I answered, ”Well, tell your boss that I will wait for the call to force me personally to do it. Now they are going to force us to do what they force all the other public employees to do. The next thing will be to force us to go to the marches.” Our musicians today are victims of the politicization of El Sistema.’

Several musicians have independently corroborated that El Sistema officials are working for the Chavista machine. There has been no statement from the El Sistema founder, José Antonio Abreu.

dudamel chavez portrait



  • Itsjtime says:

    Oy vey
    Ay caramba
    Not surprising but very disheartening.

  • MWnyc says:

    Doesn’t Venezuela have the secret ballot?

    • Daniel F. says:

      Yes: they basically use the same one that was used in the good ol’ USSR.

      • José Bergher says:

        And Castro’s Cuba…

      • MWnyc says:

        Well, even if the counting of the votes is rigged, if individual votes aren’t traceable to individual voters, the problem may be uncomfortable, but it’s not disastrous.

        The Sistema employees (or other civil servants) can simply say to the honchos exerting the pressure, “Oh, of course I’ll take ten people to the polls to vote for the Chavistas.” Once those people are at the polls – if the ballot is secret – they can vote for whomever they like.

        I’ve heard and read that, in the 19th century, the United States had a big problem with the buying and selling of votes. (No, not lobbyists and campaign contributions and other ills of today – actual soliciting of voters at the polls.) Once the secret ballot was instituted, the problem evaporated: No one wanted to dish out money to strangers who could go into the booth, vote for somebody else, keep the money, and not get caught.

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      That reminds me of an old Soviet joke: The ballots come in sealed envelopes that voters put in the urn. The voters cannot open the envelopes, since voting is secret.

  • Luis says:

    With great and deep sadness, a sense of impotence and anger, those of us who were formed since childhood within an institution with morality and rich principles of freedom, we see how some “maestros” or “managers” have allowed our Alma Mater to be corrupted. Please remember the fight of the great Russian, English and German masters who did not allow the totalitarian regimes to abuse artists. DO NOT FORCE US TO DO ANYTHING that is not connected to working hard for our kids. I DO NOT WANT TO FILL OUT THAT FORM, for any party. Nobody should even ask me “ Who will you vote for?” because they are hurting my basic rights. After this, they will force us to march as they do with my sister who is a university professor. To live in Venezuela is like being on the Titanic; because as we sink people applaud us. Let us not be the musicians that play while the ship capsizes. The managers and minister who force us to sign that form, do not love El Sistema.

  • Lissa says:

    Unfortunately in Venezuela, we live a dictatorship also in the arts, not only in government, but especially in the World of Music, through “the system” Orchestra.

    It is shameful and immoral that the Venezuelan Government is demanding each of the musicians and teachers Orchestras, take 10 voters (1×10) on election day (December 6, 2015), under duress or threat, but is even more shameful and immoral that the Venezuelan musicians quietly accept the situation and obey instructions as slaves Musical dictatorship exerted from the Government through the Directors of the National Orchestra.

  • CDH says:

    Not too keen on that “directly [not attributed or otherwise sourced] and indirectly.” This blog picks sides on issues and the people who endorse them (though it gave up on Lisita when even SD could not avoid her reality).

  • enemigopublico says:

    Gustavo Dudamel said a month ago:

    ‘In El Sistema’s orchestras, the son of an opposition leader and the daughter of a government minister may sit next to each other creating beautiful music. In that moment, they know no politics. They are not defined by their differences; they are defined by what they share — a passion for great music.

    If I aligned myself with one political philosophy or another, then, by extension, I could also politicize El Sistema. That might turn a revered and successful program into a political punching bag and make it much more vulnerable to political whims. El Sistema is far too important to subject to everyday political discourse and battles. It must remain above the fray.’

  • Holger H. says:

    These Chavista boys are quite primitive. They should get a lesson or two from the US experts, how to manipulate elections in more sophisticated ways.

  • M2N2K says:

    When arts are funded by government, this is the inevitable result. The only difference is the degree of control.

    • V.Lind says:

      I live in Canada, a country where the arts are heavily funded by government(s) — as they are throughout the civilised world, except the United States, which lays claim to membership in that group.

      I have never seen any attempts here or in Europe or Australia or New Zealand or anywhere else to coerce artists into voting a certain way or else.

      This premise of yours is nonsense.

      Joan Plowright once said enviously of the German theatre, which was much more heavily subsidised than the British, “Subsidy gives artists the all-important right to fail.” But in commercially-driven places like the US, a play that has been in preparation for a year or more and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring to the stage can be closed in a night or two due to a critical review that will inevitably affect its profit potential.

      That’s what government subsidy can achieve — give something a chance to find its audience.

      When did all the world become judged in strictly market terms?

      • Furzwängler says:

        Spot on.

      • M2N2K says:

        This is not about market terms at all. Maybe I was not completely clear in my previous comment here. All I am saying is that if an arts organization is dependent on its country’s government for most of its finances, then sooner or later that government will start dictating what such organization should and should not do. Since governments are different, the nature of their demands and degree of their control are obviously different too.

  • Ibero says:

    Si ayer por una profesora del la Orquesta Sinfónica de Ciudad Guayana me entere que los reunieron para pedirles un 1x 10 para el 6D y que luego ese día los llamarían aunque no lo diga esta claro que los están coaccionando para votar a favor del PSUV, esto es el como la corrupta revolución ya llegó al Sistema Orquestal, y en Guayana de manos del Director Pronio y su Esposa Mercedes

    If yesterday by a teacher, the Symphony Orchestra of Ciudad Guayana, I learned that gathered to ask you a 1x 10 for 6D and later that day the call, but do not say it is clear that they are being coerced to vote Please PSUV, it is as corrupt revolution and came to orchestral system, and hands Guiana Dir. Pronio and his wife Mercedes

  • Carlos Pérez Herrera says:

    Thanks for share this information about the real power and the real person that is José Antonio Abreu and his music political world.

    A lot of musicians know that if you want to be someone in Venezuela, if you want to have all the opportunities to show your work, your music, and of course your talent, to have the chance to travel to other places to study or only to work… You HAVE TO DO THIS, YOU HAVE TO GIFT YOUR DIGNITY! You have to be in El Sistema with the MASTER Abreu, a kind of musical dictator but dictator at the end and you have to work for him, and not for the music or the art. If you are a singer, you are an Abreu accessory, not an artist, not a singer. Abreu is the CHAVEZ of music in Venezuela.

    After, if you want to be in another place and Abreu doesn’t approve your likes or your plan or you didn’t want to be in his bed… he’s going to destroy that: all the doors will be closed to you and maybe you’ll have to decide to teach in your country, only do your own concerts without money, without support of the media (because he controls a lot of them)… Not being an artist, or not making big plans with your music. That’s your future.

    Yes, it’s true that a lot of children had the chance (in El Sistema) to be able to see the music as a profession, a kind of dream in Venezuela and a fact in other places. BUT, in a lot of cases, they have to study and end up their studies in
    Music schools and conservatories that depend of the State, not part of El Sistema. For a long time, Abreu has tried to take the budget of these institutions for El Sistema, and of course as he supports this government, they give him a budget, apart of the money that he gets from ONGs and other people.

    So, our musical institutions are in bad conditions, without money, without good instruments, etc.

    This is what happen to our venezuelan musicians. We have two dictators in Venezuela…. Maduro, a Castros’ toy… And the doctor Abreu. NOT MASTER. Masters were Sojo, Lauro, Estévez… NOT ABREU!

  • María Gómez Calcaño says:

    Yes, it’s true because I have friends that work for El Sistema, and they (in a lot of opportunities) have had to support Maduro or Chávez works, during their tours in other places. In Carabobo State, we have musical schools and Conservatories of Music that depend of the government that pay the salaries and wages of a lot of musicians of El Sistema.

    In Venezuela, The country of orchestras, WE DON’T HAVE ORCHESTRAS TO MAKE MUSIC WITH OUR STUDENTS. If you are not part of El Sistema, you don’t have the chance to work with them.

    If you form an orchestra that is not part of them, your project will be destroy for some of the Abreu’s friends. He want to be the only person that teach and make music in Venezuela. ¿A dictator? Yes!

    So, when I read about prices for him, I feel myself sick.

  • María Gómez Calcaño says:

    So, my uncle Jose Antonio Calcaño, as important as Vicente Emilio Sojo, didn’t want to work with Abreu….

  • Carolina Guzmán Villalba says:

    Abreu is like José Vicente Rangel with all this people in the State. They simply try to survive and doesn’t matter what they have to do by the way.

  • José jimenez says:

    Totalmente cierta la información, mi hermano es director de un núcleo del sistema y el gobierno les hizo llegar un cuaderno con Maduro en portada para que todas las personas a su cargo firmarán a favor de la revolución aceptando los resultados electorales de las elecciones del próximo 6Diciembre.

    Its true información, my brother is violín teacher and músic director of sistema.

  • Holger H. says:

    It’s always problematic and silly when people who grew up and live in first world democracies, are talking about right and wrong in a reality they know nothing about.
    Here the reality of countries run by totalitarian regimes, which are a historic reaction to an even worse totalitarian regime. Ask the people of Venezuela, given the choice between the Pérez and the Chávez regime, which is the lesser the evil in their view.
    And forget all the US propaganda, which is mainly driven by corporate interest to exploit the countries resources. Their appeals to human rights are just a travesty since they actually don’t give a sh*t.