El Sistema stands accused of systemic rape

El Sistema stands accused of systemic rape


norman lebrecht

May 28, 2021

Two academics in the Washington Post have published an indictment of Venezuela’s El Sistema music education organisation, alleging that it has been a shelter from the outset for rapists and paedophiles.

The indictment includes its founder José Antonio Abreu, who is depicted in saintly terms by many western media.

The WP article is triggered by allegations in a Facebook post a month ago by a whistleblower musician Angie Cantero. She charged that El Sistema ‘was/ is plagued by pedophiles, pederasts, and an untold number of people who have committed the crime of statutory rape.’ The other strsm f information comes from a British researcher Geoff Baker, co-author of the WP article, who has been investigating sexual abuse within El Sistema for more than a decade.

A specific charge against José Antonio Abreu has been made to Slippedisc.com by a Venezuelan musician who maintains that successive regimes shut down police investigations of paedophile complaints against him by children and their parents.

These are serious and widely sourced claims that require further investigation and an official response.

Since Venezuela is a failed state on the lines of Syria and North Korea, we cannot expect any remedy at source. But it would be helpful if El Sistema flag-wavers  – starting with its star conductor Gustavo Dudamel – were to offer a response to allegations of what is, at the very least, a haven for sex abuse and, at worst, an organised paedophile network.

Some prominent western musicians should be considering their position.

Start by reading the Washington Post here.


  • sam says:

    Why does this come as no surprise?

    In any system that has such intense idolatry, mental physical and sexual abuse is never far behind. And knowledge and acquiesce of such behavior is part and parcel of this abuse.

    Dudamel would do best to say nothing, because unless he honestly and fully answered the questions when did he know and what did he know and what did he do, he’d just be speaking in mumble jumble.

    • Chicagorat says:

      Spot on.

      Interesting quotes from the WP:

      “there are a lot of disgusting people who love to deceive girls […] taking advantage of their position of power […]”

      “How crazy to think that we somehow ended up normalizing what went on and continues to go on.”

      [“His methods rested on an uplifting discourse of art, passion and intellect,” she says. “According to him, I had to let myself be carried away by sexual desire in order to achieve a full sound.”]

      Sexual predators who use their position of power to achieve their filthy goals are the same, everywhere. And they end up getting fully exposed because they are unable to stop themselves.

      Many of of them, being ancient and all, don’t understand technology and are so dumb as to document literally everything they do.

      • Hilary says:

        “ there are a lot of disgusting people who love to deceive girls […] taking advantage of their position of power”

        This quotation from the WP neglects ought to read ‘girls and boys”

  • Bill Blayke says:

    Not a few bad apples. A rotten orchard. Not only corrupted by a lawless, Catholic Church-like culture of abuse and denial, but the state-owned instrument of a diabolical regime for the global perpetuation of the moribund ideology of Castro-Cuban “Revolution”. Have we finally got to the point where equivocation is impossible? The toxic oasis – as foreshadowed by some – did indeed “find out thy bed of crimson joy”. Only, it turns out the rose was sick all along.

  • Anon says:

    This is no secret. People have been talking about this for years. So why do so many musicians and organisations play deaf and dumb? Come on Sistema England and Sistema Scotland and all the rest, are you going to keep ignoring the plight of children in Venezuela? Silence is complicity.

  • SVM says:

    Since when was the definition of “failed state” supposed to be “a state subject to crippling sanctions from powerful NATO countries”? Assad has just won an election in Syria, and Maduro still seems to enjoy popular support (despite attempts to oust him). There are plenty of similarly horrific cover-ups of systematic sexual abuse by powerful music educators in “the West”, and many instances of politicians in “the West” failing to do anything about it. We must examine *all* power structures in music education without fear or favour, and not be so arrogant as to assume that abuse of such structures could not happen in relatively peaceful and prosperous parts of the world.

    • Anon says:

      Arrogance is not reading the article before commenting:

      ‘To be sure, this is not merely a Venezuelan problem. “Open secret” is how New Yorkers, Chicagoans and classical musicians at large characterized the predatory actions of the late conductor James Levine. “Open secret” is how people have retrospectively described the patterns of emotional and sexual abuse within various music schools and conservatories, such as Chetham’s, Curtis and Berklee.’

    • Anon says:

      There is no equivalent of El Sistema in “the West” and no music education institution with such close ties to a political regime. Leave out the whataboutism.

    • Saxon says:

      SVM writes: “Assad has just won an election in Syria, and Maduro still seems to enjoy popular support”

      Huh? Assad has sent out “death squads” to eliminate any opposition to him. Hardly an example of a democratic and free election. As for Maduro; he seems to have lost the last election, and then refused to accept the result.

  • Alexander T says:

    James Levine, Philip Pickett……
    Not just El Sistema.