The Americas

Venezuelan touches hearts weeping over violin smashed during protest

He first moved fellow Venezuelans and the Twittersphere when some weeks ago he joined the street protests in Caracas armed with his violin. It was his way of mourning a musician friend who died in early May amid the escalating violence in the country.

Then this week he touched everybody’s hearts when cameras caught him weeping inconsolably holding his broken violin, which had been smashed by the National Guard.

Wuilly Arteaga, 23, is one of thousands of mostly college-age Venezuelans protesting the increasingly autocratic government of Nicolas Maduro.

“People sing the anthem, listen to my music, and are reminded that Venezuela is a country that is worth loving,” he told the Washington Post recently.

On Wednesday, however, an officer with the National Guard on a motorcycle took Arteaga’s violin by the strings as he was walking with a group of demonstrators.


“I was playing in the middle of the protest when the national guard motorcyclists came up and grabbed the violin,” said Arteaga, who typically wears a T-shirt and helmet with the colors of the Venezuelan flag. “He refused to let it go, and during the scuffle it was crushed,” he said.

Since the incident, Arteaga has received an outpouring of support and the hashtag #UnViolinParaElPana, or "a violin for the buddy,” is hoping to raise enough funds to get him a new instrument.

Meanwhile, Venezuela's unpopular president is pushing ahead with his project of a new congress to rewrite the constitution, despite dissent within his own ranks and the violent unrest that has killed more than 50 since April 1.

Riots and looting have underlined risks that protests could spin out of control given widespread hunger, anger at Maduro and easy access to weapons in one of the world's most violent countries.