Venezuela regime demands payback from El Sistema

Latest from Geoff Baker:

At a recent large meeting at El Sistema’s Centre for Social Action through Music, a government representative, the Vice-Minister of Supreme Happiness (!) Carolina Cestari, reminded the institution’s employees that their funding came from the President’s Office, and they should therefore support the government’s revolutionary process or find a new job. They were told not to sign the petition for a recall referendum that has been the main focus of opposition efforts in recent months. It appears they are also now expected to join pro-government marches, and according to one source, they have since done so.

There has been consternation in the capital’s classical music scene as a result. However, and in line with the long history of El Sistema, so far no employee has come forward to make a public declaration or denunciation. The levels of pressure and fear are high, and 40 years of top-down orchestration and strict control by founder José Antonio Abreu, who believes in the orchestra as a school of social discipline, have left musicians without a political voice or a capacity to self-organize.

Read on here.


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  • True. This meeting happened and it’s not the first time that Maduro’s thugs put pressure on El Sistema. Like many other government employees in this dictatorship, the Sistema musicians and teachers will have no option but to publicly pretend they support the government. We see this in ministries, national institutes, government-owned companies, universities, schools and all other institutions funded by the government… which in Venezuela is a huge proportion of organizations, because the State is our biggest employer. This is what living in a dictatorship is about. However, when (and if) elections come, people will vote against the government. We saw this already in the elections for the National Assembly, and it is the reason the government postponed the elections for mayors and governors.

    It is very easy for outsiders to look at this and ask how can the Sistema officials stand by and let this happen? They forget that these people are pushed into a corner. They live in a country with 700% inflation, if they leave El Sistema they won’t find another job, they have families to support, Venezuelans have no capacity of saving money, fleeing the country nowadays is almost impossible. And as we saw with the employees of state-owned oil company Pdvsa in the early 2000’s, if they stand up to the government they will all be fired and the institution they spent years creating will be destroyed, and there will be no impact at all on the government.

    I just read the Baker article linked to above. As usual, Baker writes with absolute hate towards El Sistema. He clearly believes that the children of Venezuela have no business in playing European music and he would rather they were out on the streets joining gangs. He doesn’t write from the perspective that it is a shame and an outrage that this is happening to El Sistema. He writes from the point of view of someone that is delighted to see El Sistema crumble. What a sad little man he is.

  • It’s brave of you to fire off a few insults from the safety of your internet alias. However, you’ve missed the point of the article, which is that this isn’t simply “happening to” El Sistema – it’s also something that El Sistema has done to itself (and from which some of its members have benefited greatly- they haven’t all been forced into this, as you suggest).

    You’ve also conflated all the different constituent parts of El Sistema (leaders, teachers, students, etc) and therefore made a logical leap of which an 8-year-old should be ashamed: Baker criticizes Abreu and Dudamel, therefore Baker would rather Venezuelan children joined gangs.

    The Venezuelan government provides education. You criticize the Venezuelan government. Does that mean you hate education and would rather children joined gangs?

    It’s an important topic, and your final paragraph contributes nothing to it.

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