Latin America & Caribbean

Gustavo Dudamel: Venezuela star conductor's tour cancelled

Gustavo Dudamel
Image caption Gustavo Dudamel angered President Maduro by speaking out against his government

Venezuelan star conductor Gustavo Dudamel has confirmed media reports that his US tour with Venezuela's National Youth Orchestra has been cancelled.

Dudamel said the cancellation, which came just days after President Nicolás Maduro publicly criticised him, was "heartbreaking".

In May, the conductor spoke out against the government.

"May God forgive you for letting yourself be fooled," Mr Maduro replied.

Dudamel, 36, is the music director of both the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela.

He gained further fame by becoming the youngest musician to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic's annual new year's concert in 2017.

'Listen to the people'

He had stayed silent on the politics of his homeland until the beginning of May, when after a month of anti-government protests, he called on the government "to listen to the people".

As the political crisis in Venezuela worsened, he spoke out again in July, this time in opinion pieces published in the New York Times and Spanish daily El País criticising the constituent assembly the president had convened.

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On Friday, President Maduro responded.

"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," the president said, referring to the young musicians which form part of Venezuela's praised musical education programme, El Sistema.

He also had a dig at the conductor for living abroad: "I don't live abroad, true. None of us lives abroad, in Madrid or in Los Angeles.

"Where do we live? In Venezuela and we have to work for the Venezuelans."

On Monday, three days after that public criticism, Venezuelan media reported that the US tour of Venezuela's National Youth Orchestra under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel had been cancelled by the president's office.

On Tuesday, Dudamel confirmed the reports on Twitter.

No reason for the cancellation of the tour has been given so far.

Some Venezuelan media speculated that it was cancelled "in revenge" for the conductor speaking out against the government but others pointed out the high cost of transporting the young musicians to the US at a time when the Venezuelan government is running low on foreign currency reserves.

President Maduro is also an outspoken critic of "the imperialist US", which he blames for many of Venezuela's problems.

Tensions between the two countries have risen further this month after President Trump said he did not rule out a military option in dealing with Venezuela's crisis.

One hundred and eighty young musicians had been rehearsing for three months for the four-city US tour scheduled for September.

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