Music speaks to tyranny

Opposition activist Wuilly Arteaga stands with a violin in front of an armored vehicle of the riot police during a protest against President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, on May 24, 2017.
Federico Parra | AFP | Getty Images

Nothing can scare despots like music.

Wuilly Arteaga, dressed in the colors of Venezuela, stood against the thugs who are stealing democracy in his country armed only with a violin and a bucketload of courage.

Arteaga’s violin is now silent.

It was used to beat and torture him. He lost hearing in one ear.


Arteaga came to the United States in June to meet with members of Congress. Then he went back to the streets of Caracas.

Jeremy Eichler, writing in the Boston Globe today, notes that El Sistema, the national program that provided a music education to impoverished Venezuelans, has remained neutral as the country has fallen into chaos. That’s odd, considering its motto is “Tocar y Luchar” — to play and to fight.

“With his violin, with his music, he spoke in front of tyranny,” said Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero by phone from Switzerland. “Because of that public prominence, he is a target and unfortunately could suffer very much during this arbitrary imprisonment. We are all very worried about him — and every other prisoner political who is at the hands of the regime.”

According to Romero, Arteaga is one of 5,058 people who have been detained since April 2017, and one of 1,389 who remain in detention. Protesters are watching the case closely, for his own sake and for what he has come to represent.

“Wuilly is a symbol of the kind of Venezuela we want,” said Roberto Patiño, a community organizer, by phone from Caracas. “We don’t want violence. This is a civic movement. And music is one of the best expressions of that.”