Venezuela: Military Arrests Violinist Famous for Playing National Anthem at Protests

Wuilly Arteaga
AP Photo/Fernando Llano

The violinist Wuilly Arteaga, who has become a symbol for Venezuela’s struggle for democracy, was arrested on Wednesday during an opposition protest in Caracas, local reports have confirmed.

Arteaga was arrested during a national strike called upon by the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), a coalition of opposition parties, against President Nicolás Maduro’s plans to create a constituent assembly, which critics believe will effectively render the country a dictatorship.

He currently remains in custody at the command headquarters of the National Guard in El Paraiso and is need of medical assistance, according to a series tweet from Alfredo Romero, head of the NGO Penal Forum.

“#28July, 9:00am Wuilly Arteaga (the violinist) was detained in Comando 433, Bolivarian National Guard, El Paraiso, Caracas,” he wrote in a tweet:

At 1 pm, he confirmed that authorities had “not allowed access or communication with Arteaga,” adding that he “needs medicine”:

The 23-year-old has become a symbol of the political and humanitarian crisis currently taking place in Venezuela, regularly playing songs such as the Venezuelan national anthem on his violin during demonstrations.

News of his arrest comes just a week after Arteaga was injured by a rubber bullet during another anti-government demonstration, sustaining bloody injuries to both his face and body.

Venezuelan security services have increased their brutality towards dissidents in recent months as anti-government demonstrations continue to escalate. According to Venezuelan outlet RunRunes, at least 116 people have been killed since daily anti-government protests began in March.

In a statement, Marion Smith, executive director of Victims of Communism Foundation, accused Maduro of “cowardice” over the arrest and warned of the influence of Cuban intelligence officials operating in Venezuelan jails:

Wuilly Areteaga represents the spirit of the Venezuelan people. Despite being bloodied 6 days ago by police and seeing his fellow freedom fighters arrested around him, Wuilly continued to play his violin in the streets of Caracas. His music valiantly accompanies the chorus of voices demanding a free, democratic Venezuela. Showing his cowardice and illegitimacy, Nicolas Maduro arrested Wuilly and others last night ahead of the sham July 30th elections, which the regime is staging to consolidate its control. 

In Venezuela, there are currently 444 political prisoners and over 3,500 detainees, many of whom have not even been charged. Sadly, over 100 people have been killed by Maduro’s regime, and right in the open on the streets. Here is where Havana has reared its ugly head: Cuban intelligence officials are running the jails and detention centers where detainees are being subjected to brutal conditions and torture. Like Wuilly, teenagers and young adults make up the bulk of the protesters fighting for a vision of their country inspired by the promise of freedom. Maduro’s regime must release all prisoners immediately and allow the majority opposition to freely determine the future of Venezuela, not Raul Castro and his thugs.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), who received Arteaga at his office in Washington last month, said he was “horrified and dismayed” by the news.

“I am incensed by this violence against Wuilly, who was exercising his basic human rights to free speech and freedom of assembly,” Raskin wrote. “I urge Wuilly and Goan’s immediate release by the Bolivarian National Guard and an end to President Maduro’s outrageous assaults on his countrymen. The whole world is watching.” 

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