Music speaks to tyranny

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.”

  • MrE85

    Next time you see a public protest that personally offends you, and you think a harsh police response is a good idea, remember the face of Wuilly Arteaga.

  • Gary F

    I really wonder what Sean Penn, Jaime Foxx, Danny Glover, Michael Moore, Naomi Campbell, Oliver Stone, and Jesse Jackson all think of what’s going on down there?
    They all visited Maduro and/or Chavez and praised the revolution. .

    I wish a major news outlet would ask them, but I’m not counting on it.

    • Probably they’d be on the side of democracy. The government Chavez defeated, for the record, was also corrupt and threw political opponents in prison. So, yeah, I get you wanting to pin the label on people whose politics you disagree with, but I don’t think you can really do so with any degree of integrity while pretending the alternative was acceptable.

      There was a reason Chavez won with the support of the poor and the working class, who had been hurt by a declining economy under the previous regime. So if you’re objecting because some people from the U.S., also favored lifting up the poor and working class, well, where have you been?

      Politicians have a way of disappointing the people who elect them to power. The problem isn’t the people; the problem is the politicians. People vote for the alternative when they already know the existing government is corrupt. Sadly, the alternative often proves corrupt, too, but hope is a tough thing to snuff out.

      The long term problem — as we see in the United States — is people eventually stop believing their vote counts, so they stop voting.

      • Gary F

        Sure, but their core belief was in the people, why aren’t they speaking up now?

      • Kathy Vieira

        With all due respect, you are wrong! As a Venezuelan, living in Venezuela, and who has always voted in every election since I was 18, and have participated as witness at election centers in several elections, I can tell you and assure you that Chávez won, his first elections, with the vote of the middle and upper class, in addition to the support from the media, the first, because of resentment, disappointment, lack of opportunities, declining economy and the corruption of the previous democratic governments, the second, because they thought they could control and manipulate him, and that backfired on them. The poor and working class didn’t use to participate in elections. They started doing it in the first constituent elections of 1999 and that’s because they were driven/taken to the electoral centers by the regime. They still do! Today we are trapped in a dictatorship and severe crisis that persecutes represses/oppresses, imprisons, tortures, disappears and kills hundreds and thousands of Venezuelans in addition to having no food, medicines and/or basic needs!

    • Jerry

      Why do you even care what a group of b-list Hollywood types (and Jesse Jackson) think of Venezuela? I can’t say anybody on the left does.

      • I have come to the conclusion that most issues are complex and cannot simply be assigned a binary label – “Liberals this and conservatives that”.

  • The question is if people in the U.S. weren’t for democracy and the promise of a better life for the poor and working class, what exactly were they for?

  • Same as the US. The poor and working class want a better life and they recognize an existing government that isn’t going to do anything to provide it when they see it.

    Like the US, the only choices the people had are the few they were given.

    Also you didn’t answer my question.

  • By people in the U.S., I mean people in the U.S.

    I get that because people with whom people disagree in the U.S. — Hollywood and ‘left i general’ — were in favor of the promise of a better life for the poor and working class of Venezuela, that they must disagree with that, but that doesn’t answer the question of what option they think the people of Venezuela should have chosen unless it was the status quo. If that’s the case, they’re not very good at defending it.

    We’ve reached the stage of polarity whatever the “Hollywood elites and left in general” are for, they are against. That’s our American character defect.

    Perhaps they favor whatever regime the U.S. government favored. That isn’t always in the best interest of the people in South American countries.

    President Trump never spoke truer words than when he said , “you think our country’s so innocent?”

    I think there’s a small amount of idealism left in the hemisphere. It’s being snuffed out, but there’s a still a flicker of it. That’s a good thing.