Venezuela's star conductor Dudamel says 'enough' of violence

Gustavo Dudamel in Vienna in 2017Image copyright
Adam Latham

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Gustavo Dudamel is currently music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra

Renowned conductor Gustavo Dudamel has urged the government in his native Venezuela to “listen to the people” after weeks of violent protests.

He posted his strongly-worded message after an 18-year-old musician was killed at a rally in Caracas.

“Nothing can justify the bloodshed,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

More than 30 people have been killed and hundreds either injured or arrested since protesters took to the streets in early April.

The demonstrations were sparked by a decree from President Nicolas Maduro to create a 500-member constituent body to rewrite the constitution, a step that would bypass the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

The country is also suffering from severe shortages of basic foods and other necessities after falling prices for oil exports cut government revenue. Inflation is expected to hit 700% this year.

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Protesters run from tear gas as a rally turns violent in Caracas on Thursday….

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Police shield themselves from firebombs thrown by protesters

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Getty Images

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Dudamel, seen here with Venezuela’s late leader Hugo Chavez, is seen as being on good terms with the government

Gustavo Dudamel, 36, is the music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and one of the stars of Venezuela’s famous musical education programme El Sistema.

Still music director of the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, he has sometimes been accused of not being critical enough of the Caracas government.

But he was moved to speak out after the death on Wednesday of the 18-year-old musician, who was a member of El Sistema.

Under the headline “I raise my voice”, he wrote: “We must stop ignoring the just cry of the people suffocated by an intolerable crisis”.

He said “no ideology can go beyond the common good” and “politics must be exercised from conscience and in the utmost respect of the Constitution”.

He called on the president and government “to rectify and listen to the voice of the Venezuelan people… we owe our youth a hopeful world… where we can walk freely in dissent, in respect, in tolerance, in dialogue and in which dreams have room to build the Venezuela we all yearn for”.

Youths hurled rocks and fire bombs and police responded with rubber bullets and water cannon on Thursday – a second consecutive day of violence in Caracas.

The government has warned demonstrators that their right to cause street disruption is not absolute.

Justice and Interior Minister Nestor Reverol warned that blocking highways carried an eight-year sentence.

Bu opposition leader Henrique Capriles has described the security forces as “mobilised as if this was a war”.

President Nicolas Maduro succeeded Hugo Chavez, a popular but polarising leader who had introduced wide-ranging social welfare programmes and died in 2013.

However, Mr Maduro has been unable to inspire the same popularity and loyalty as his predecessor.

Presidential elections are due at the end of next year.

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