From my morning inbox:
Melanie Stoutzker and the Trustees of Sistema England warmly invite you to join them for the Sistema Europe Youth Orchestra 2018 (SEYO18) concert and reception at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall on 26 August 2018, celebrating the power of music to unite nations and of youth aspiration through adversity.
This August, Sistema Europe Youth Orchestra 2018 brings together 200 young musicians from 16 countries in Europe for a vital cultural gathering, including young musicians from music for social action projects in England: The Nucleo Project, In Harmony Lambeth, Liverpool, Newcastle and Telford.
Sometimes one is stupefied by the willing myopia of classical music administrators. The recent history of Venezuela has shown El sistema to be an instrument of a terror regime in Venezuela that is reducing many citizens to the choice of starvation or emigration.
Yet useful idiots in western democracies continue to pretend that El sistema is politically neutral, untouched by politics and of overwhelming (if unproven) benefit to mankind.
This has to stop.
Yesterday the Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero issued the following challenge to Sir Simon Rattle after he continued to defend el Sistema and its premier star, Gustavo Dudamel:
For many years, the Chavez regime has appropriated El Sistema – not merely symbolically, but under a formal Ministry of the regime – as its primary propaganda tool abroad. It has paid hundreds of millions of petro-dollars for this laundering privilege, using an impenetrable “salvation narrative” as its most effective detergent.
Some, not many, refused to be part of the charade. They refused the sort of offers that Abreu – famous for asserting that “everyone has a price” – made to me in person, as long ago as 2004: “Enough money to take care of you for a lifetime, mi querida.” They refused to collaborate with the architects of our nation’s destruction. Some, not many, are not for sale.
Now that the nation has collapsed, those same collaborators are now reinventing themselves as victims, often with the help of loyal journalists and colleagues.
But Gustavo Dudamel is not a victim, Sir Simon, and it is preposterously insulting to the true victims of this crisis to claim otherwise.
Nor, at 35, is he a child that should be wrapped in cotton wool. He is a free, moral agent, whose moral choices are subject to the same public scrutiny as anyone else in a position of power. He “endures” nothing. He is a beneficiary. He is a multi-millionaire beneficiary, in fact, who willingly enjoyed the private-jet lifestyle created for him by Chavez, Abreu and Maduro. He willingly partied and dined for years with the monsters who have destroyed my country. He willingly befriended the cast of a mafia that now controls a narco-state of starving, fleeing, dying, murdered, tortured, deprived citizen victims. He is no victim….
Your final paragraph, Sir Simon, demonstrates – unwittingly, perhaps, but efficiently nonetheless – the mafia structure you have been dealing with all these years:
“The last time we were there, my family and I were robbed of everything in the room. Abreu told me not to worry because he would call number two to solve it. The next day everything appeared in its place. Nothing was missing. What kind of threats would number two throw at the hotel staff to make it so? It was Maduro. Today number two applies that method of terror throughout the country.”
You were robbed. You called Abreu, who called “Number 2”, and your property was immediately returned. You intended to demonstrate that Venezuela TODAY is governed by a brute, and that somehow Dudamel is a victim of that brutality. What, in fact, you illustrated is that he has willingly served a mafia system for years and years, and that Abreu was so powerfully connected to it that he could resolve your problems with a single call to “number 2”. This is the stuff of mafia novels.
Venezuelans know this. They have refused to listen to the “salvation narrative” for years now. In Venezuela, they have a saying: “No se puede estar bien con Dios y con el Diablo” (“you can’t serve God and the Devil at the same time”).