Music Meets Chavez Policies

Fighting Poverty, Armed With Violins
By Daniel J. Wakin
The New York Times, Feb. 15, 1012

CARACAS, Venezuela — Corrugated tin roofs, ramshackle cinder-block huts, labyrinthine streets caked with garbage and rubble, the possibility of random violence at any turn. And this section of the Sarría barrio is not even bad for Caracas.

But Sarría also plays host to a center of El Sistema, Venezuela’s program of social uplift through classical music. So just across the street from such blighted scenes young children with violins and French horns and trumpets filled the spaces of an elementary school on Tuesday.

A brass ensemble barked in a corridor open to the Caribbean air. A percussion group rumbled in a dirt courtyard nearby. In a classroom newly hatched violinists played a G major scale and simple Venezuelan tunes after a week of learning. At least two choirs were rehearsing.

The contrast was stark but also typical of El Sistema, which was founded in 1975 but became widely known only in the last five years thanks in part to the meteoric rise of its most famous product, the conductor Gustavo Dudamel. Mr. Dudamel, 31, became music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2009 and is now in Caracas with his orchestra for a cycle of the Mahler symphonies.

“It’s my goal to keep going, so I can be a great musician,” said Emily Castañeda,10, who began playing French horn two weeks ago and was producing honorable sounds during a lesson. Or, added Emily, whose mother is a cleaning woman and who does not know her father, she might become a doctor.

El Sistema’s aim is to address a depressingly universal problem: how to remove children from poverty’s snares, like drugs, crime, gangs and desperation. The method, imagined by El Sistema’s founder, the economist and trained musician José Antonio Abreu, was classical music. Orchestras and music training centers around the country were established to occupy young people with music study and to instill values that can come from playing in ensembles: a sense of community, commitment and self-worth.

With nearly one-third of Venezuela’s population of 29 million under 14, the need is large.

Since the program’s founding, El Sistema estimates that it reaches 310,000 children in 280 teaching locations, called núcleos, said Eduardo Méndez, the executive director. About 500 orchestras and other ensembles, from preschool groups using paper cutouts of instruments to the world-class Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, fall under El Sistema’s umbrella. Mr. Abreu has said his goal is to reach 500,000 children by 2015.

The program has become the envy of the music world, inspiring similar programs in many countries and attracting influential proponents like the conductors Claudio Abbado and Simon Rattle. It has prompted a number of books and documentaries, countless news reports and a steady flow of musicians and educators tramping through showcase núcleos.

The attention has made Sistema officials adept at playing host to visitors, who receive a warm but fairly controlled welcome, which is usually necessary in dangerous areas. These officials and Sistema fans speak in near mystical terms of Mr. Abreu and his program’s results.

The populist government of Hugo Chávez is also happy with the program, pouring 540 million bolivars, about $64 million, a year into it. Foundations and donors add various amounts each year as well as gifts of instruments.

The Sarria núcleo, on the city’s northern edge, is housed in a prekindergarten-through-sixth-grade school of 1,200. In an arrangement with the government it offers after-school activities from 2 to 6 p.m. for 600 children.

Sarria embodies many of the principles that seem to make El Sistema so successful. All instruction and instruments are free. No child is turned away, teaching is done in groups, and many of the instructors have passed through El Sistema themselves (and are thus committed to the movement). Public performance is ingrained from the beginning. The núcleo is within walking distance of the students’ homes.

All performers are given medallions that have the image of a violin on one side and the motto “Tocar y Luchar,” “To Play and to Fight,” on the other.
“From the time they start playing and performing for others, they feel they are proud of what they are doing,” Mr. Méndez said.

The Sarria orchestra was in the final throes of rehearsing for a concert this week. The núcleo’s director, Alejandro Muñoz, 32, was conducting. He is a stern figure who had already assigned some timeouts to talkative members. They were playing Handel’s “Water Music” and “Alma Llanera,” considered an unofficial Venezuelan anthem that every Sistema orchestra player learns.

“The main thing in our núcleos is the quality,” Mr. Méndez said. “We teach them with the best quality possible.”

Mr. Muñoz, a violinist, was himself born in a barrio and passed through a núcleo. “My mother thought it would be a safe place,” he said. He was identified as a conducting prospect and sent to a conservatory.

At Sarria the beginning violin teacher was Ismenia Molina, 51, who was one of the earliest members of the first Sistema orchestra, giving her the aura of a founder. She has been with El Sistema for 33 of her 51 years.

El Sistema also has choirs and programs to teach instrument-making and repair.
Things don’t always run smoothly in the program. Tensions sometimes arise between Sistema officials and the administrators of the buildings they use. The program’s growth sometimes outpaces the supply of teachers and instruments. Parents don’t always cooperate in getting children to rehearsals or lessons. Instruments are stolen in this crime-ridden country.

One fact sometimes overlooked is that Sistema is also open to people from middle-class or upper-middle-class families.

The Sarría núcleo’s founder, for instance, Rafael Elster, had a privileged upbringing. Mr. Abreu assigned him to set up the núcleo in 1999, and he spent 10 years there, suffering several armed robberies and the cleaning out of his house.
The majority of Sistema children do not go on to musical careers, but many come back and work for El Sistema anyway. Mr. Méndez, for instance, is a lawyer.

“Once you get touched by El Sistema,” he said, “you will never leave El Sistema.”

Capriles Radonski, Terrorist, Candidate for President in Venezuela

Venezuela: A close look at opposition candidate Capriles Radonskiby Jean-Guy Allard (special to

The right-wing leader Henrique Capriles Radonski, who, amidst the coup d’etat against President Hugo Chavez in April 2002, led the assault on the Cuban Embassy in Caracas along with Cuban-Venezuelan terrorists, and who was unmasked by Wikileaks as a collaborator of the USA Embassy in Caracas, will be the candidate for the presidency that will confront President Hugo Chavez in next October elections.

As was anticipated in view of the alliances between candidates, Capriles won the majority of the votes in the election carried out last Sunday by the so called Democratic Unity Table (Mesa de la Unidad Democratica) or MUD. According to observers, its campaign commanders were characterized by voting delinquencies such as illegal party propaganda near the voting centres and the buying of votes.

Capriles is the leader of the party Primero Justicia and was born on 11 July 1972, in Caracas to one of the most privileged families in Venezuela. His mother, Monica Cristina Radonski Bochenek, of Jewish (Russian-Polish) origin, is the owner of a well-known cinema chain. His father, Henrique Capriles Garcia is from a Jewish-Dutch family from Curacao.

Both families have interests in the media, own various industries, services and real estate. Capriles Radonsky graduated from the conservative Catholic University Andres Bello (UCAB) in Caracas, and also studied at Columbia University, New York.


In reports published by the USA State Department on Venezuela and published by Wikileaks, Capriles was linked to the assault on the Cuban Embassy in Caracas, and as a suspect in the assassination of the Venezuelan Prosecutor, Danilo Anderson.

The documents demonstrate the complacency of the USA Embassy in Caracas towards this leader of the Primero Justicia Party of fascist bent and whose role in the assault to the Cuban Embassy and other illicit activities has been censured in the text.

These documents show that the USA Embassy not only recognizes Capriles, who is now the governor of the state of Miranda, but also offers him cooperation and the many paragraphs that are blacked out by the censors in Washington reveal collaborations that is beyond what they are prepared to confess.

On April 12, 2002, during the most tense hours of the coup d’etat, the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba was assaulted by a group of extreme right demonstrators that were led by two individuals identified in Venezuela to terrorist acts against Cuba, they are Salvador Romani and Ricardo Koesling. These two were soon after joined by Capriles and the former commissar of the DISIP (former secret police), the assassin, Henry Lopez Sisco.

They cut the electricity and water supply to the diplomatic headquarters, they destroyed the vehicles of the diplomats and they surrounded the embassy so that no one could leave it. Capriles Radonsky was caught on film by the Venezuelan TV stations climbing a ladder and jumping over the embassy fence, then enter the embassy and threatening the Ambassador of Cuba in Venezuela, German Sanchez Otero, with more violence if he did not give up the Venezuelan officials whom they thought were hidden in the Embassy.

On that same day, April 12, Capriles -- who was then mayor of the municipality of Baruta where the Cuban Embassy was located- not only refused to take measures to stop acts of violence, but witnessing on site the violence, insisted on “inspecting” the Embassy, something completely against international conventions, and then made provocative statements.

Capriles Radonski was also an accomplice in the arbitrary detention of Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, then Minister of Justice and the Interior and took part in the illegal sacking of his home.


After many lies and spins of the right concerning the circumstances of the assault, on March 16 2004, the prosecutor Danilo Anderson, in charge of more than 400 cases of people suspected in the coup d’etat of April 2002, issued an order of arrest against Capriles, accusing him of violating the fundamental principles of international law, violating private property and of abuse of power. While these proceedings were going on, Capriles was kept in detention until September.

On November 18, the young prosecutor died when his car exploded, destroyed by a bomb that contained the explosives C-4, a powerful artifact the type that has been used en in numerous occasions by Cuban-American terrorists.

A list was published of the intellectual authors of the assassination, among whom was Salvador Romani, a Cuban lawyer, along with the financial swindler Nelson Mezerhane, shareholder of the private TV station Globovision, the journalist and supporter of the coup d’etat Patricia Poleo, the traitor Gen. Eugenio Añez, and Henry Lopez Sisco. They are almost all now living in Miami.

Another accomplice of this gang, Ricardo Koesling has been linked with Cuban-American terrorism since the 1970s and was even an accomplice in helping the terrorist Luis Posada Carriles escape from the Prison San Juan de los Morros, in 1985, while at the same time he was a very high placed collaborator of the government of Venezuelan President Jaime Lusinchi.

Henry Lopez Sisco, fomer commissariat and torturer of the secret police ex “DISIP”, worked for years along side the terrorist Posada.

Among the suspects –all of whom are linked to Capriles – that sought sanctuary in Miami- is another former “DISIP” official , Joaquin Chaffardet, who, along with Lopez Sisco was trained by the intelligence services of the USA in the infamous School of the Americas.


In 2000, Capriles formed the political party Primero Justicia, along with Leopoldo Lopez. The policies were developed with financing and assessment of USAID through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the International Republican Institute (IRI), that have provided experts of the Republican Party of the USA who design its political platform and communicatin strategy.

USAID has this year given a donation of five million dollars to right wing Venezuelan groups under the pretext of “supporting democracy”. This measure which was announced in Miami by Mark Feierstein, head of the US organism for Latin America, violates the Venezuelan Law of Political Sovereignty and National Self-determination, which since 2010 forbids foreign financing of Venezuelan poitical parties. venezolanos.

Capriles Rodonski belongs to the same extreme right wing ideological group whose main leader in Venezuela is Alejandro Peña Esclusa, who was arrested in Caracas carrying 900 grams of C-4 and detonators, having been denounced by the Salvadorean Francisco Chavez Abarca, a specialist on C-4 who was trained by Posada, and was extradited later to Cuba.

ALBA Donates $20 million to Haiti’s Health Sector

Chavez Writes Off Haiti’s Oil Debt to Venezuela

CARACAS – President Hugo Chavez announced Monday that he would write off the undisclosed sum Haiti owes Venezuela for oil as part of the ALBA bloc’s plans to help the impoverished Caribbean nation after the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake.

“Haiti has no debt with Venezuela, just the opposite: Venezuela has a historical debt with that nation, with that people for whom we feel not pity but rather admiration, and we share their faith, their hope,” Chavez said after the extraordinary meeting of foreign ministers of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, or ALBA.

He also announced that ALBA has decided on a comprehensive plan that includes an immediate donation of $20 million to Haiti’s health sector, and a fund that, Chavez said, will be at least $100 million “for starters.”

Oil-rich Venezuela is the economic heart of ALBA, which also includes Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Haiti is among several countries that send observers to ALBA meetings.

Chavez said one part of ALBA assistance to Haiti would consist of fuel distribution via “mobile service stations” set to be up and running within a few weeks.

The ALBA plan of aid for Haiti includes support for such sectors as agriculture, production, food imports and distribution, and immigration amnesty for Haitians living illegally in the bloc’s member-states.

Cuba and Venezuela sent assistance and aid workers to Haiti within days of the magnitude-7.0 temblor that left an estimated 200,000 dead and 1.5 million people homeless.

The leftist Venezuelan leader also noted that there are some celebrities who want to work with ALBA, among whom he named actor Sean Penn, who, he said, called him because the members of a team of U.S. doctors now in Haiti want to “coordinate” their activities. EFE

ALBA Summit Emphasizes Sovereignty and SelfDetermination

ALBA Summit Has new members: Suriname, Saint Lucia and Haiti

Caracas, 06 Feb. 2012- AVN.- The 11 Summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), held this weekend in Caracas, closed stressing the defense of sovereignty and people's self-determination, besides the adhesion of Suriname and Saint Lucia as special members of the bloc and Haiti as full member.

"We have changed from three to six Caricom members in the ALBA and, though we did not realize it, they represent more than half the population (of that Caribbean organization)," said Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, over the adhesion of the three Caribbean nations.

During the Summit, the Heads of State and Government of the ALBA passed a special statement over the inalienable right of Puerto Rico to its self-determination and full independence.

The statement, read by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, recalls that Puerto Rico is a Latin American and Caribbean nation, with its own and unmistakable history, whose rights to sovereignty are violated by the colonial guidance imposed by the United States for over a century.

Similarly, the members of the regional bloc signed an accord to condemn the attacks and meddling actions against the Syrian people, as well as they reiterated their political condemnation to the policy of interference and destabilization in the Syrian Arab Republic.

The bloc also proposed to discuss over their attendance or not to the Summit of the Americas, expected for next April in Colombia, since Cuba has apparently not been invited to that encounter.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez proposed to ask Colombia, which is the host, whether it expects to invite Cuba or not and then take a decision. "If Cuba is not invited to the Summit of the Americas, we should think about attending that summit," Chavez said to his counterparts of the ALBA.

It was as well passed a special declaration in honor of the Five Cuban Heroes imprisoned 13 years ago in the United States for fighting terrorism.

Foreign Ministers of the bloc are expected to meet soon in Havana, Cuba, to discuss the North American blockade to the Caribbean country, the colonialist provocation of the United Kingdom in Argentina's Malvinas Islands, among other issues.

Council of Defense
In the Summit, Bolivian President Evo Morales proposed the creation of the Council of Defense of the ALBA, agency which will be discussed by the political council, which is made by the foreign ministers of the bloc, informed President Chavez.

President Morales explained that the Council of Defense is based on the necessity of "building a new military doctrine," in which "the armed forces are at the service of people, not of the empire."

The 11th Summit of the ALBA also resulted in a work plan to cooperate with the development of Haiti, which is still suffering the consequences of an earthquake on January 2010. "ALBA will not make miracles, but it has to try hard for Haiti," added President Chavez.

At the end of the encounter, the political parties of the ALBA took the floor to propose the creation of a coordinator, which would meet twice a year to monitor and fulfill the proposed issues.

Meanwhile, social movements of the bloc proposed to create a network of schools fro movements, which contribute with the development of a grand national conscience, as well as strengthen people's power and exchange knowledge and experience.

The 12th Summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America will take place in the Caribbean island of Dominica, on August this year.