With his home country in crisis, L.A. Phil’s Dudamel finds himself the target of Venezuelan president

Conductor Gustavo Dudamel, photographed during a Los Angeles Philharmonic concert last month at the Hollywood Bowl.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Gustavo Dudamel, the Los Angeles Philharmonic music director who has slowly been pulled deeper into the political and economic crisis of his native Venezuela, helped to win the release of a musician-protester detained by the government, a source close to the negotiations said.

Dudamel was involved in the talks to release Wuilly Arteaga, a Venezuelan violinist who gained a following on social media for playing music in the middle of violent street protests against President Nicolas Maduro. National guard forces arrested Arteaga during a demonstration last month; he was released Tuesday.

Dudamel declined to comment, and no further details of his involvement in Arteaga’a release were available.

Opposition activist Wuilly Arteaga plays his violin during a protest against President Nicolas Maduro last month in Caracas.
(Federico Parra / AFP / Getty Images)

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News of Dudamel’s role followed comments Friday from Maduro, who appeared on television to criticize the conductor and one-time Maduro supporter, the Associated Press said.

“I hope God forgives you,” Maduro reportedly said, criticizing Dudamel for spending time in Madrid and Los Angeles while a political and economic crisis deepens in his homeland.

“Welcome to politics, Gustavo Dudamel. But act with ethics, and don’t let yourself be deceived into attacking the architects of this beautiful movement of young boys and girls,” Maduro said, referring to Dudamel’s longtime association with El Sistema, the revered Venezuelan musical education program.

Dudamel spoke out against the Maduro government in May after a member of El Sistema died in street protests than have killed more than 120. “We don’t need more blood,” Dudamel told Times music critic Mark Swed in an interview. “It’s not right for people to be dying in demonstrations. We need voices that unite Venezuela.”


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