Elsewhere there is much well deserved praise for yesterday's Big Noise concert in Stirling featuring Gustavo Dudamel, the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra and the young musicians from the Raploch estate, and anyone who knows that deprived neighbourhood will have been deeply moved by the impact that the Venezuelan music education movement is having there. Which still fails to explain why everyone connected with the event managed, once again, to ignore the large, dead and malodorous moose in the centre of the Raploch stage.
El Sistema was founded by José Abreu in 1975, which is twenty-four years before Hugo Chávez became president of Venezuelan. But El Sistema and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela (note the full title) have close links with Chávez, and, as the New York Times reports, the Chávez administration funds almost all of El Sistema's $29 million annual budget. Funding that also pays for the prominent Venezuelan national colours worn around the musician's necks throughout the concert, and the Venezuela branded jackets they donned for the finale - see photo above - and then tossed away to the Raploch youngsters. It is all a wonderful PR exercise for Venezuela under Chávez; which is fortunate as the regime needs all the good PR it can muster, as leading independent monitor Human Rights Watch reports:
The weakening of Venezuela’s democratic system of checks and balances under president Hugo Chávez has contributed to a precarious human rights situation. Without judicial checks on its actions, the government has systematically undermined free expression, workers’ freedom of association, and the ability of human rights groups to function.The Los Angeles Philharmonic online shop is selling a Gustavo Dudamel T-Shirt which carries the message 'Music is a fundamental human right'. Which is quite true; but freedom is an even more fundamental human right, and, as the report quoted above reminds us, it is being denied to many in Venezuela today.
Violent crime is rampant in Venezuela, yet few people are prosecuted or convicted, as law enforcement is seemingly unable or unwilling to effectively tackle it. Extrajudicial killings by security agents continue, and impunity for such human rights crimes remains the norm. Prison conditions are deplorable, and prison fatality rates are high due to inmate violence.
If I had a magic wand I would wave it to speed up the roll-out of the priceless work being done in Raploch and elsewhere - see my report on our local In Harmony project. But I would also wave the wand over the media; so that as well as reporting on that priceless work, it at last admits that there is a dead moose centre stage at every Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra concert. And I would wave it over the organisers of those concerts and give them the courage to say to the Venezuelans: 'We love you and your work to pieces and want to do more with you. But music transcends nations, and political propaganda has no place on the concert platform. So the next time, please leave your flags at home'.
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