Famed Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel, director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is being pressured by anti-government forces to condemn the Maduro government in Caracas, a step that could force him to leave El Sistema, the national music program enrolling one half-million Venezuelan youth. The LA Times inaccurately reported that Dudamel directed a youth orchestra in Maracay on February 12 with President Nicolas Maduro attending, on the day when demonstrators were fatally shot. The Dudamel concert was in Caracas that day, two hours away.
Dudamel issued a statement declaring that “Our music is the universal language of peace and for that reason we regret yesterday’s events,” Dudamel said in a statement issued late Thursday. “With instruments in hand, we say no to violence and an overwhelming yes to peace.” Los Angeles architect Frank Gehry, who is consulting on a Venezuelan hall for the youth orchestra, was present at the Dudamel concert and described the huge audience as overwhelmingly receptive.
The misreporting of Dudamel's whereabouts is only a local reflection of widespread confusion in the US over street conflicts now overflowing in a divided Venezuela. The Maduro government, elected last year by less than two percent of the national vote, faces an opposition which seems bent on precipitating its overthrow by a cycle of violence and repression escalates daily. Countries across the region are rallying to the defense of Venezuelan sovereignty and warning against direct or indirect US intervention. President Barack Obama has issued a vague call for "dialogue" and the release of prisoners while facing demands from Sen. John McCain for US intervention.
Any credible evidence of a US hand in destabilizing the elected Venezuelan government will chill Obama's efforts to improve regional diplomacy during his final three years in office. A coup might plunge the country, and region, into a war that would be a diplomatic nightmare for Washington. The slender hope that the virulent anti-Maduro opposition will return to peaceful constitutional boundaries rests on clear and repeated signals from the Obama administration that it will not intervene. Instead the US should support a conflict resolution process led by countries of the region.