Venezuela conductor Dudamel's tour canceled

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel said Monday his US tour with Venezuela's government-backed National Youth Orchestra has been canceled.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic director, who hails from Venezuela, said the decision, which followed a public rebuke from socialist President Nicolas Maduro, was "heartbreaking."

"My dream to play with these wonderful young musicians cannot come true -- this time," Dudamel, who also directs the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, said on Twitter.

In his first comments on the crisis in his home country, the LA-based maestro warned in April that Venezuela risked a "fratricidal conflict" and called on the government to "to listen to the people."

"Immediate solutions are needed... opening the doors to the most healthy and exemplary democratic game," the 36-year-old said in a video posted on Twitter.

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

Dudamel spoke out again in opinion pieces for the New York Times and Spanish daily El Pais -- this time criticizing the Constituent Assembly convened by Maduro.

This earned another admonishment from the president, who took to television to criticize Dudamel for spending time abroad as the crisis at home was deepening.

"I don't live abroad, true. None of us lives abroad, in Madrid or in Los Angeles," Maduro said.

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

No reason has been given for the cancellation of the four-city September tour, for which 180 musicians have been rehearsing for three months.

It was due to begin on September 9 near Washington before continuing to Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

"We will continue to play and to fight for a better Venezuela and a better world," Dudamel tweeted.

Maduro's opponents, angered by an economic crisis that is causing widespread hunger and shortages, have demanded his resignation.

Nearly 130 people have been killed this year in anti-government protests.

The Constituent Assembly -- in theory a temporary body meant to write a new constitution -- said Friday it had assumed sweeping powers to legislate on security, economy, finances and sovereignty.

The National Assembly convened Saturday in defiance of the declaration, in front of representatives of the United States, the European Union, Argentina, Chile, Canada, Mexico, Peru and other countries.

The United States -- whose leader, President Donald Trump, has raised the possibility of a "military option" in Venezuela -- has rejected the new body, as have Spain and Britain.