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Singer Rubén Blades and President Maduro Exchange Words Over Venezuela

Rubén Blades. Photo by Jaris Savoglou on Flickr, under Creative Commons licence (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Rubén Blades. Photo by Jaris Savoglou on Flickr, under Creative Commons licence (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Hugo Chávez had a good relationship with various Latin American artists, especially with those identifying as progressives, but it would seem that Nicolás Maduro has some reservations in this respect, and even more so in light of the current protests.

Rubén Blades, the popular Panamanian singer-songwriter, has voiced his support of Hugo Chávez [es] on more than one occasion; however, a recent post which he published on his website has given rise to controversy. Here is a part of the text entitled simply “Venezuela” [es]:

El país está tristemente polarizado y por eso hoy Venezuela duele. La aparente ausencia de una solución se debe a la falta de un liderazgo que establezca un propósito de lucha que unifique al país, en lugar de dividirlo. Si estás a favor de la oposición, eres un burgués parásito, agente de la CIA, vendido al Imperio. Si favoreces al gobierno eres un comunista, maleante, vendido a Cuba y a los Castro. Ninguna de estas definiciones habla de Venezuela y de su necesidad. Solo pintan el odio y la expectativa personalista de quien esgrime el argumento, impidiendo la posibilidad de un diálogo inteligente y patriótico.

Sadly the country is polarised and that's why today Venezuela is hurting. The apparent absence of any solution owes to the lack of a leadership which would establish a common target for struggle to unite the country instead of dividing it. If you support the opposition, you're a parasitical capitalist, a CIA agent, a sell-out to the Empire. If you're in favour of the government, you're a communist, a miscreant, a sell-out to Cuba and the Castros. Neither of these labels speaks to Venezuela and its needs. They only show the hatred and self-oriented expectations of the person making this argument, hindering the possibility of an intelligent and patriotic dialogue.

 Then he goes on to address Venezuelan students:

Ojalá que logren sentar las bases para la discusión del país que puede ser, y no el que hoy pretenden forzar dos bandos en conflicto de intereses. Que no les obliguen a escoger entre alternativas como el cáncer o el ataque al corazón. Que los estudiantes del país, desde El Guajiro hasta Cumaná, planteen su agenda de vida y se la presenten a los dos grupos que hoy se debaten en pugna por el Poder. Díganles cuál es el país que quieren, y aclaren que no aceptarán como únicas alternativas, las propuestas por los dos bandos en disputa.

Let's hope that you manage to establish the foundations for discussion of the country that can be, and not that which two gangs embroiled in a conflict of interests wish to impose upon you today. Let's hope that they don't force you to choose between options like cancer or a heart attack. Let the country's students, from El Guajiro to Cumaná, propose their schedule for life and present it to the two groups who are debating each other today in a struggle for Power. Tell them which is the country that you want, and make it clear that you won't accept the proposals made by two rival sides as the only alternatives.

As was to be expected, the Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro's response came quickly, in the form of a television broadcast:

Here are some sections of the president's response:

Hoy escribió un artículo influido en lo que ve en Univisión, TeleMundo y CNN, él cree el cuento de esas televisoras. Ruben yo te invito a que vengas a Venezuela, en privado si quieres, para que converses con nuestro pueblo [...] pero no creas que se va a dar ese proceso que tú recomiendas aquí y que estos grupos fascistas que salen y que presentan Univisión, TeleMundo y CNN como unos corderitos, son la alternativa para nuestro país [...] A esta revolución tu más bien deberías incorporarte, porque esta revolución se hizo con tu canto, de rebeldía contra el imperio, contra el tiburón que anda por ahí por las costas del Caribe venezolano [...] En esta oportunidad te salió mal la letra

Today he has written an article influenced by what he's seen on Univisión, TeleMundo and CNN, he believes the story told by these broadcasters. Ruben, I invite you to come to Venezuela, in private if you wish, so that you can speak to our people [...] but don't think that the actions which you recommend here are going to take place and that these fascist groups who come out and who are portrayed by Univisión, TeleMundo and CNN as innocent lambs are the only alternative for our country [...] Instead, you should join this revolution, because this revolution was brought about by your songs, of rebellion against the empire, against the shark which is out there nudging the coasts of the Venezuelan Caribbean [...] On this occasion your words weren't so accurate.

But the matter did not end there. Rubén Blades felt obliged to respond to President Maduro after being directly named in the latter's speech, and among other things he wrote [es]:

Creo que su gobierno, Presidente Maduro, no posee la mayoría representativa que justifique lo que le está haciendo al país. Por otro lado, la oposición, mezcla de lo que existió en el pasado político de Venezuela y de lo nuevo que hoy lucha por hacerse respetar y considerar, no está formada por cuatro gatos fascistas, como se pretende hacer ver. Es una vital cantidad de personas.  [...]

La Venezuela de hoy no es la Nación que todos sus habitantes desean, es una versión de país a la que sólo parece apoyar el 50% de la población, tomando en cuenta el total de los votos emitidos en las elecciones del 2013. Esa realidad determina la necesidad de considerar una modificación del rumbo presente, en busca de un balance que permita el desarrollo del argumento nacional en sus propios términos, más realista y menos agresivo; una Venezuela en la que no sean necesarios los gritos de “Patria o Muerte”, entre hermanos.

I believe that your government, President Maduro, does not possess the representative majority which would justify what you are doing to the country. On the other hand, the opposition, a blend of what used to exist in Venezuela's political past and something new, fights today to be respected and taken into account. It isn't comprised of a few measly fascists, as you wish to have us believe. It is a significant number of people.  [...]

Today Venezuela is not the nation which all its inhabitants desire. It is a version of the country which only 50% of the population seems to support, based on the total number of votes cast in the 2013 elections. That reality determines the need to consider a change in the current path, in search of a balance which would allow the national debate to develop on its own terms, more realistic and less aggressive; a Venezuela where shouts of “The Homeland or Death” would not be necessary between brothers.

Blades continues:

[E]n las presentes circunstancias, no resulta apropiado que su gobierno imponga sus deseos, o desconozca, o pretenda ignorar la validez de los argumentos planteados por sus críticos venezolanos. No creo que es a través de la represión, la censura, o el recurso demagógico que se produce la respuesta racional a una condición objetiva inobjetable. Tal actitud solo provocaría más violencia, que generaría la posibilidad de una ingobernabilidad, un vacío político que podría ser llenado con un golpe militar, la única institución con la capacidad de organización y poder coercitivo para enfrentar el caos institucional y civil resultantes.

Under the present circumstances, it is inappropriate for your government to impose its desires, or to be unaware of, or to pretend to ignore the validity of the arguments laid out by your Venezuelan critics. I do not believe that it is by means of repression, censure or recourse to tub-thumping that a rational response to an indisputable objective condition emerges. Such an approach would only provoke more violence, which would create the possibility of ungovernability, a political vacuum which could be filled with a military coup, the only institution with the organisational capacity and coercive power to confront the resulting institutional and civil chaos.

The letters and responses between Blades and Maduro have prompted an infinite number of comments and reactions all over the Spanish-speaking web, including comments on blog posts [es] and websites [es] where this exchange has been republished, and publications on social networks by people from different ends of the political spectrum.

Rubén Blades’ reflection on what is happening in Venezuela is excellent

Dancing the media's tune against Venezuela. Calle 13, Rihanna, Arjona, Blades have all spoken. Who else will be out of tune with reality?

#Blades: I trust more in the students’ argument than in those of the government and opposition

The letter by RUBEN BLADES which so greatly annoyed the man who commits CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY BY ARMING EXTERMINATION GANGS N MADURO

There were also reactions which included responses from others, largely in support of the government.

Response from @delsasolorzano to @rubenblades with regard to his letter to Venezuela-

Maduro to Blades: In Venezuela it is Pablo Pueblo [the people, also the title of a song by Rubén Blades] who governs

We carry out revolutions every day with a lot of interruptions – From Silvio Rodríguez to Rubén Blades

The latest episode in this saga has been a new reply from Maduro to Blades. Maduro declared in a television broadcast [es] that he had written a private letter to Blades. In the same video he invites the artists who are commenting on the situation in Venezuela to visit the country and speak about it from the ground.

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