Keeping El Sistema out of politics?

[31/03/2015] Yesterday, Gustavo Dudamel told his local hagiographer-in-chief, Mark Swed of the LA Times, that he was “doubling down his efforts to keep Venezuela’s El Sistema education system out of politics.” Swed, being Swed, left it there, rather than doing what you might expect any half-decent journalist to do and asking a follow-up question along the lines of: “that’s interesting… aren’t you and El Sistema in fact getting ever closer to the government, which some might interpret as getting more involved in politics?”

The same day, a much-publicized video was released in Venezuela, showing a number of leading popular musicians singing “Viva Venezuela” with a Sistema backing orchestra featuring prominently. The video is part of the government’s high-profile anti-Obama campaign “Venezuela es esperanza” (Venezuela is hope).

That’s an unconventional way of keeping El Sistema out of politics. Far be it from a senior arts journalist on a major US newspaper, who has written frequently about El Sistema and even more so about Dudamel, to make this connection. A nice little example of how the international media has been responsible for creating and perpetuating the Sistema myth rather than asking the most basic critical questions.

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