Sistema USA whitewashes sexual abuse in Venezuela

Sistema USA whitewashes sexual abuse in Venezuela


norman lebrecht

June 15, 2021

The worshipful US offshoot of the compromised Venezuelan education system has issued a statement on child safety following the rush of evidence of mass abuses in the parent organisatio.

The statement makes no mention of child abuse within El sistema Venezuela.

It is a shameful whitewash.



  • STOP!!!! says:

    Honestly? Whatever. Nothing will happen and no one will be punished. El Sistema, Catholic Church, Boy Scouts, etc. None of them have any credibility following the surfacing of this child abuse. Indict the perpetrators, fire the enablers, shut it down, reorganize, and release all documents even remotely related to the abuse for public view. And before anyone shows up to troll my comment, I am a survivor of child sexual abuse. Don’t say anything unless you are going to support the victims and be part of the solution.

  • Latinophobia says:

    Let the chips fall where they may. We can only hope all allegations of misconduct will be thoroughly investigated, with perpetrators appropriately punished and victims properly tended to.

    However, any attempt to blame El Sistema as a whole – and worst, to desire its collapse – is akin to throwing the baby out with the bath water. El Sistema is a mammoth program with 600,000 students, serving Venezuela’s population (and, by copy-paste that of several other countries) from the poor up, in what is undoubtedly the largest and most successful orchestral program EVER, bar none. It puts to shame any other program by proud, ego-inflated so-called rich nations.

    Let’s not forget the sheer envy, the economic slobbering, the politics and the racism which compels writers like Geoff Baker from the (cough) “first world” to throw any available eggs and tomatoes at anything good coming out of Venezuela (or anywhere in latin america for that matter) after all, they don’t kiss the hidden body parts of certain powerful countries and therefore must suffer with the annihilation of anything remotely good coming out of their shores.

    Again, let them investigate. Sexual abuse is abhorrent and cannot persist, anywhere, not even in England (I don’t recall Mr Baker writing similar articles when sexual abuse broke out in a British music school not long ago). Let them fix their problems, and stop the anti-latino racism and green envy fuelling these charges, and let the perfect, blameless society throw the first stone.

    • Anon says:

      Sorry to interrupt your rant, but this is an article about the US, not Venezuela. But if you want to talk about Venezuela, then why don’t you mention that the abuse allegations come from Venezuelan victims as the result of a Venezuelan movement (YoTeCreoVzla)?

      Trying to distract attention by pinning this on writers from the global North is factually incorrect and a slap in the face for the Venezuelan women who are speaking out and pursuing justice.

      • Maria says:

        But it an offshoot of the Venezuelan system and so related. Otherwise run it differently and call it something else.

    • Phil Mullen says:

      I am a friend of Geoff’s and an educator in music for social justice contexts for almost 40 years. You are a human being who I am sure does not support child abuse in any way. Therefore I ask you to correct your statement and withdraw the implications about Geoff, which are beneath any decent person. Geoff is not a racist, he is a researcher trying to uncover uncomfortable truths so that children are protected. He should be supported, not vilified and it is no shame to you to recognise this and correct your comments. It is a tragic thing and will damage the field of engaged arts education globally but the damage has been done to the young people and Geoff is correct to bring it to the attention of a wider world. Please respond by withdrawing these untrue remarks about Geoff. I have no desire to be anonymous in this issue so I include my own name, Yours, Phil Mullen.

    • Robert Fink says:

      Baker’s argument (and he’s not the only one to make it) was akin to a scientist predicting that certain empirical observations would confirm his theory about how a complex system works. Now that the empirical evidence is in, and it fits his theory, coarse ad hominem attacks will do little to distract from that fact. Baker argued that the entire set-up of El sistema was abusive, and that it stood to reason that some of the abuse would be sexual. QED.

    • Bob says:

      Female Venezuelan musicians have come out and said that El Sistema is PLAGUED with sex abusers, and your response is to defend it as “the most successful orchestral program EVER, bar none” and blame everything on Geoff Baker. You’re not listening to the voices of the victims, just to your beliefs and prejudices.

    • Geoff Baker says:

      If you care about the truth rather than your own agendas and grudges, read this:

      Part of the reason this story remained covered up for so long is because of people like you refusing to listen and shooting the messenger instead.

  • Couperin says:

    Although it’s a disgustingly sad and pathetic story, as a selfish American who has always been negative about Sistema it’s very gratifying and I feel vindicated to know I’ve been right all along about it. All of the sneers I used to receive for my criticism of Sistema from self-important American music educators always made me roll my eyes.

    • Peter San Diego says:

      Yes, but were you also always negative about other music education institutions where sexual abuse has been uncovered? Sexual abuse seems to infect music education pretty widely, not only in El Sistema.

  • Fact checker says:

    Enough with the USA-bashing from your ‘perfect’ European thrones.

    Saying that “the worshipful US offshoot … makes no mention of child abuse within El sistema Venezuela” is not strictly accurate. Read the entire statement, which does say that “the #YoTeCreoVzla movement has deepened awareness and the urgency around the degree to which we create safe environments in our programs.”

  • operacentric says:

    There was a pretty sycophantic release from Sistema UK last week

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Pretty well everybody is a victim now!! You name it, I’ve suffered it. Get up off your knees people and THRIVE. That and learn some bloody history, for god’s sake, about real privation and misery and the triumph of the human spirit.

    Years of leniency in courts have led to this kind of abuse; and it’s the Left which has promoted leniency/victimhood over the decades. When you provide decent and serious punishment for crime there will be less of it. Ask the Russians.

  • Geoff Baker says:

    I would like to address the accusation from an anonymous internet troll above that I am racist and latinophobic. In reality, I have been studying Latin American music for 25 years and have written four books and made a suite of documentary films on this subject – hardly the career path of someone who hates Latin America. My most recent book applauds the Network of Music Schools in Medellín, Colombia, for attempting to address many of the problems of El Sistema, on which it was originally modelled. I was offered a job as a consultant by that program after working with them for a year. They clearly did not think I was racist or latinophobic.

    I have been giving keynote speeches, lectures, seminars, and workshops in Latin America for 18 years, invited by Latin American colleagues. Why would they invite a racist, latinophobe to talk to them about Latin American music?

    In reality, there are many people in Latin America – in particular music researchers – who are skeptical about El Sistema, who do not swallow every bit of propaganda coming out of the Venezuelan program, and who are keen to hear from someone who has actually bothered to research this subject in depth rather than recycling PR materials.

    I am also married to a Latin American.

    Finally, I did write about sexual abuse in UK music schools – see p.229-32 of my 2014 book.