Last week, Venezuelans were called to the ballot box for regional elections. But it has been a long time since a vote in the country has been free or fair. This is one reason for the massive and often violent demonstrations that have been taking place in various cities during the last few months. Protesters take to the streets to fight for their rights and a better future - armed with weapons one might not expect.
In May, street battles break out in the capital of Caracas. 27 people die within five days. One of them is the young musician Armando Canizales. The 18-year-old was shot protesting against his own government.
One month later, people gather on Plaza Francia in Caracas to commemorate those who lost their lives in the demonstrations. Among the protesters are many classical musicians. They come armed – not with weapons but with their instruments. Their guitars, violins, and melodies provide the soundtrack for the protests. The pictures of the people who use music to protest against violence and their government quickly go around the world.
One of the demonstrators who has since become well-known is Wuilly Arteaga. The 23-year-old is a member of El Sistema, the legendary youth symphony orchestra of Caracas.
This state-financed orchestra has changed the lives of young Venezuelans across all social classes for almost half a century. By receiving an education in classical music, orchestra members are offered an alternative to poverty, unemployment, and crime. The institution has been one of a few that seemed immune to Venezuela’s growing polarization, and that was protected by successive governments. But this status is threatened by the current political development.
Wuilly Arteaga's swollen and bloody face after he allegedly got beaten up by the national guards is one of the images of the demonstrations that went viral. When his violin got destroyed during the beating, a donations call was sent out via the Internet. Since then, Wuilly Arteaga has received violins from people around the world. The images of the young man dressed in the colors of the Venezuelan flag, opposing the police while playing his instrument, are all over the internet. And Twitter has thousands of posts under the hashtag #WuillyArteaga.
The demonstrations in Caracas: Musicians making a stand.
In the Venezuelan state of Anzoategui, too, people are protesting by playing their instruments.
Laura Guevara, a famous video artist on YouTube, sums it up: “We deserve to have quality of life, health, security, justice, respect, and democracy. It is our right.”
Hopefully Venezuela will soon see better days.
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