A Sistema co-founder ‘radically regrets’ its existence

A Sistema co-founder ‘radically regrets’ its existence


norman lebrecht

November 17, 2021

The prominent Venezuelan novelist Eduardo Casanova Sucre, a co-founder of El Sistema, has issued a scathing attack on the organisation and its inventor José Antonio Abreu, accusing him of using it for ‘unreliable’ purposes.

He calls Abreu an ‘opportunist, adult, pederast and bad person’ and continues: ‘Such a Sistema, created with my support, has been an instrument of propaganda for the worst political system that humanity has known… its contribution to the musical progress of Venezuela is not significant … I radically regret having served to make it a reality and hopefully the country can forgive my recklessness, that so much damage did to several young people who were harmed by an opportunist pederast.’

There has been total silence from Sistema apologists in Europe and North America about its attempted ‘world record’ orchestra, assembled in mid-Covid in a site regularly used by the Maduro regime (we are told) for detention and torture.

No word either from its former poster boy, Gustavo Dudamel.



  • Anon says:

    Was Abreu the James Levine of South America?

    Remember that 6 months ago a former El Sistema student alleged that the program was “plagued by pedophiles, pederasts, and an untold number of people who have committed the crime of statutory rape.”


    • John Borstlap says:

      That article is difficult reading, because of the level of disgust it provokes.

      “These revelations have massive ramifications. Hundreds of music education programs across dozens of countries fly under the banner of “El Sistema.” It is central to the brand of world-famous Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel, the music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.”

      That such crazy, psychopathic people put the sistema idea upside-down, does not mean that the idea in itself is wrong. Obviously, it has been perversily exploited for personal ends beneath contempt.

    • Jim C says:

      Levine was never accused of pederasty.

    • DR says:

      Abreu’s sexual proclivities were well known in the Caracas cultural world since the 1970s. Yet no one was willing to say so publicly. So yes, very much like James Levine.

  • Good to see that Sistema and uppity Latin Americans are still causing American plutocracy to gnash its teeth.

    • Anon says:

      Are you suggesting that Americans shouldn’t gnash their teeth at the allegation that the world’s most famous youth orchestra system was run by an opportunistic pederast?

      • I don’t believe the mainstream media’s reports about much of anything in Venezuela.

        • John Borstlap says:

          All mainstream media in the world are instruments of the power struggle of the classes!


        • Sam McElroy says:

          Would you deign to believe the 6 million refugees? Or is that fake news, too? If I hooked you up with a phone call to the refugees living in our house for over three years would you believe them? Contact me and I will arrange the call. That’s no bluff. Do it.

        • V. Lind says:

          I don’t SEE mainstream media reports about much of anything in Venezuela. But what I do see reports a humanitarian crisis in a country that cannot feed itself, and where some hospitals do not even have running water, let alone medical supplies and medicines. I see from Colombia a refugee crisis in their border.

          I did not start out anti-Chavista — I had too much contempt for what he got rid of in the previous lot — but mismanagement and an increasingly tyrannical regime, followed by Maduro’s, which made it all even worse — led me to the inevitable conclusion that the country as in deep trouble. I do still think that here, as in Cuba decades earlier, the US made it worse by its hardline and paranoiac attitude to anything it perceived as communist or even socialist.

          A thriving little musical project with success stories coming put of it was something that the probably tone-deaf government would have seized on for its propaganda value. And it is not likely the would give a flying &*^% that some kids were being sexually exploited.

          Still does not mean that the original scheme was without merit. It’s what we all wish for every country — get kids off the streets, into a free music training scheme and give them goals to aim for with camaraderie, discipline, other skills part of the process.

          • Sam McElroy says:

            I agree with you that VZ is totally neglected by the media. It is rare to read any in-depth analysis of the situation. But that is also because the country is in such a mess that journalists just don’t go there. Getting there is difficult, it is dangerous to stay there, and officials regularly confiscate journalist’s gear. The BBC Latin-America desk has been woeful in its equivocal reporting style. They issue the occasional he-says she-says piece and leave you to confirm your own bias.

            On your evolving position, I respect your ability and willingness to distinguish over the years between ideology and actual outcomes. Sometimes it is hard to admit that we are disappointed when what we had hoped for does not only not materialise, but turns out to be a deeply malevolent ruse. Few ever make that pivot.

            Chavismo/Madurismo has no right to claim any political affiliation, or to identify with any recognisable political ideal, any more than Cosa Nostra does or Pablo Escobar did. It is a criminal organisation not a political movement, a mafia not a government. The UN and ICC now recognise that, formally.

            And who could ever argue against the egalitarian provision of music, art, literature, philosophy, sport and all the essential building blocks of the healthy individual and society to our youth? Not me, that’s for sure. The problem arises when regimes ask for an unreasonable return on their investment, when they demand total servitude, create monopoly and dependence, use children for propaganda, and wilfully conceal the abuses that naturally stem from such manifest power differentials. Best, S.

        • Tiredofitall says:

          Then just talk to some Venezuelan ex-pats. They can fill in the blanks. It ain’t pretty. And, for what it’s worth, most also have great disdain for Dudamel.

        • Tiredofitall says:

          Then just speak to some Venezuelan ex-pats. It ain’t pretty. Also, many of them have great disdain for Dudamel.

      • Jim C says:

        That’s not pederasty even if true.

    • Bob says:

      A story about sexual abuse in music education is ‘good to see’?? What planet do you come from?

      • I take the article as part of the reams of anti-Chavista propaganda we are inundated with, but of course in this forum it will be celebrated.

        • John Borstlap says:

          Interestingly, Sir Roger Scruton has demonstrated that crimes of the right are extensively pointed out and subject to generous moral condemnation, while the crimes of the left are always explained as regrettable collateral damage inevitable if we want a better and more just society. So, rightwing dictatorship is pure evil, but leftwing social engineering is for the common good, also if it results in millions of entirely unnecessary deaths, like in Soviet Russia and Communist China (cultural revolution).

          Certain type of people who have socialist sympathies will feel inclined to defend attempts at social engineering, also when they are revealed to be entirely immoral.

          In the French Revolution, which was an attempt to restore justice in society, Robespierre claimed that finally the time had come to create a nobler, more just future for humanity. Everybody who had the temerity to have objections, lost his head under the guillotine. I think this should not be forgotten.

          In other words, humanist values are NOT the property of leftwingers, neither of rightwingers, neither of progressives nor conservatives.

      • There might be abuse, but that’s the trouble with ideological propaganda and lying by a government and the media that serves it. Credibility is lost.

    • Nijinsky says:

      The situation in Venezuela is tragic, but if Venezuela is a narco regime, than what is the US?
      A country that’s known to introduce to and and sell crack cocaine in the ghetto, when they weren’t getting enough money from the US Senate to fund their arguably terrorist activities in places such as Columbia. And yet one tries to mention how that might have “something” to do with the situation in Venezuela and it’s “NO IT DOESN’T” from one side, and then the other cites such provocations and corruption but still looks for profit from it through the back door, possibly knowing as little what is going on as the US President, Senate etc, knowsas to what the CIA or FBI really are doing. The US has a whole history of all sorts of covert operations that are highly corrupt: Chile, Haiti, Indonesia, Vietnam so many other countries and places not opening up for what’s clearly delineated in books such as Confession of an Economic Hit Man and other books, would one care to look further into the situation. Or Iraq, invading a country under false pretenses, when that’s exposed after the invasion, there’s of course quite a bit of hatred against the “West” and when consequently a Caliph starts to emerge that’s known, it’s actually helped or overlooked thinking it would depose Syria, but that then becomes ISIS instead. More problems on all sides, more riffs and cleavages between different factions that might have had the opportunity to relate to each other instead…

      Yes OK Venezuela is a narco regime, but should they be more covert and part of the globalization of making people addicted to unrevealed, undisclosed, unpublished and untold addictions: more consumptions that will more than enough give them a fraudulent sense of comfort, and along with keeping them so well they wouldn’t know what’s going on if meant to inform them of what’s going on feed them more of what keeps the wool over their eyes, the curtains closed and their paths from ever encountering those who have witnessed what goes on when the great savior shows up once again, whether it’s from either side of the spectrum Chavez Maduro or the other side or sides.

      The amount of refugee’s is harrowing and tragic, but this doesn’t excuse overlooking at whose door one is actually knocking on looking for help. And instead of allowing for such insight, or even entertaining it as being possible, harassing anyone that has questions about it as some selfish person that’s not helping.

      Nor is calling one’s life a result of hard work, when one gets rewards from a system acting like they are the good guys wanting to help, but are mired in what caused the problem to begin with, and not just in that one country. Those just trying to scrounge a living trapped in the result of the exploitation being covered up with “charity” once the exploitation has caused enough destabilization, they might be working much harder than those heralding their own work ethic. Only it’s just about staying alive rather than “I-have-accomplished-this-see!”, and it remains something personal rather than part of the global media ring, and they stay alive rather than further antagonizing and provoking extremist responses from a regime that doesn’t know how to stop reacting in the destructive way it has taken on when put into the grinder of give us your resources or else…..

      There’s nothing wrong in seeing that by not choosing sides you’re helping more…

  • Simon Scott says:

    I have known for years that el sistema stinks

  • Alex Klein says:

    Every system has statistically reliable rates of regular performance, outstanding results and …problems. The bigger the system, the easier one can find something that excels, and something that stinks. Take large universities, look under a microscope and you will find all of the above and more. And so is El Sistema. And Chetham….

    Mr. Casanova’s comments seem extreme, undereducated, crass, and unbecoming of a person of his stature. They show evidence of a bruised ego, or jealousy. Perhaps he was not recognized by this monumental program over the years as much as he thought he deserved. Perhaps he has something personal to gain by joining a dissent bandwagon mixing politics with music education.

    As for Maduro and Chavez, name ONE politician, in any country, who doesn’t mingle among the successful programs in his/her country in order to boost their popularity, and who won’t then help fund that program in order to look good in front of the masses. There you have it. Abreu was an economist, and a bright person who knew how to work the system on behalf of his program. ALL OF US are dependent on the political systems as they are. Having a politician smile at our projects does not mean there is reciprocity. Now and forever music and the arts are dependent on our fragile relationship with authority. Shall we talk about Mozart and the Emperor…and the Archbishop? Shall we say that Boccherini was complicit with the Inquisition? Or boycott Khatchaturian because he was friendly with Stalin in criticizing Shosty? Shall we blame Copland and Bernstein for being Americans during the period its institutional racism came out of the closet? Neither can we blame Abreu for dancing according to the music in order to do his good to the word. Its what ANY OF US would do and happen to do every day. We are musicians.

    Latin america has problems with politics. And we often don’t know what to do with it. A LOT of these problems are a result of the Monroe Doctrine and the incessant interventions, interference and outright military invasions from the United States – a country which now, ironically, complains about Russian interference in their elections, while its (now former) President supports and endorses Bolsonaro and to this day sends his puppet Steve Bannon there to influence Brazil in to the depths of despair. This is a fact, and continues to this day – until Bannon goes to jail. It generates waves and waves of refugees now treated like cattle at its southern border. It also breeds dictators, both imposed by the US (such as Pinochet in Chile), and those who gather the momentum of those interferences to mount an opposition (such as Chavez and Maduro).

    Bottom line: let music speak. Let us live, please. El Sistema, and its copycats around the world do A LOT OF GOOD to children and youth who do not have the PRIVILEGE offered to white Europeans (we don’t have to go back a few centuries of history to talk about “those” invasions, right? Right…!). I am so sorry that the meager success of – god forbid – latin americans makes British people so nervous, but Venezuela’s El Sistema is an enormous success calculated upon its uncountable stories, from Dudamel down the line. Let us be, Brits. Let us be. Please respect the hard work and our struggles. Are there problems? Of course there are. Including sex. But then, shall we talk about Chetham? C’mon!

    • Bob says:

      Quite an elegant apology for a pederast, but it’s still an apology for a pederast.

      Also, reading your words you’d think Lebrecht wrote the story. He didn’t. It was a Venezuelan. So ‘let us be, Brits’ misses the mark. Lebrecht reports on sex abuse stories around the world, and there’s no reason Venezuela should get a free pass.

    • DR says:

      “Neither can we blame Abreu for dancing according to the music in order to do his good to the word. Its what ANY OF US would do and happen to do every day. We are musicians.”

      Not all musicians are as lacking in principles as you. Take Gabriela Montero, who refused to “dance according to the music” for Abreu and Chávez. Plenty of other Venezuelan musicians refused to be part of Abreu’s scheming or left when they understood what it was all about.

    • Jim C says:

      Also, a lot of teenage girls become quite voluntarily sexually active in Latin America. It’s not always culpable or predatory, either.

      I know the thought of this is now considered to be deeply offensive. Too bad. It’s true. I’ve known many older Hispanic women who have zero regrets about it. Quite often THEY were the aggressors, and are honest about it.

  • Beaumont says:

    Mr Osborne using the words ‘uppity’ and ‘mainstream media’ to denigrate reports about systemic child abuse in an orchestra.

    Now, which words would he use if these reports were on, let’s say, the Vienna Philharmonic?

  • Mark says:

    Any comments from Marshall Marcus, who was actively promoting Abreu in Europe and used the El Sistema credentials to get himself a job as the EUYO manager?

  • V. Lind says:

    Maybe it was founded as an instrument of propaganda (and by an opportunistic pederast) — it did become one soon enough. But I dispute the assertion that it did nothing for Venezuela musically. A fair bit of talent has emerged from its programmes. Concert halls all over the world have El Sistema grads conducting or soloing with them, and doubtless in second chairs and section leading roles in orchestras as well.

    • DR says:

      What you say is true, but whether exporting all those classical musicians has benefited Venezuela musically is open to question. It was always a highly musical country – it’s not like El Sistema was created in the desert.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Yes, it’s regrettable that thousands of youth from a relatively poor country had the opportunity to learn and perform music, simply because the system was less than perfect. There’s good 21st Century logic for you.

  • Hervé Le Mansec says:

    Vous ne manquez pas, pour des raisons “politiques”, une seule occasion d’ enfoncer El Sistema. Et la
    musique dans tout cela ?

  • John Porter says:

    I have always been suspect of El Sistema and that suspicion emanated from the worship of Abreau. The man was treated as if he was some god and it was also well known that he was deeply connected to the government. Anything as cultish as this, tends to be a problem and it is not surprising to see these matters continue to emerge. I would bet there is more coming.