Alejandro Sanz, a pop singer from Spain, has a beef with Hugo Chavez. It all started with comments Sanz made back in 2004 while on tour in Venezuela. During that time, opponents of Chavez circulated a petition signed by 3 million people that would force Chavez into another election, which Chavez at first resisted. Sanz, not a fan of Chavez because he felt that Chavez was against free speech, said, "If I were presented with 3 million signatures to stop me from singing, I'd stop singing." Chavez’s people, upon hearing his comments, created a website that they hoped they would get 3 million signatures to stop Sanz from ever singing again. It was joke, but for Sanz, it was mean-spirited attempt at humor. Soon afterwards, Sanz claimed that the government of officials harassed Sanz and his crew, making it impossible for Sanz to play in Venezuela by forcing hotels not to let him stay there, thus forcing promoters to cancel the dates.
To add to the fuel to the fire, during a show in Miami, Sanz wore a Venezuelan flag draped over his shoulders, then held up a shirt that was handed to him that said “Chavez Sucks.” Soon that footage was all over the Internet, thanks to Youtube.
After a third attempt to play in Venezuela was canceled, a petition in support of Sanz started to circulate, only this time his support came from artists from all over the spectrum of Latin entertainment. Pop icons such as Shakira, Penélope Cruz and Jennifer Lopez; to conscious artists such Fito Paez and Joan Manuel Serrat, as well as conservatives Gloria Estefan and husband Emilio, all signed in support of Sanz.
The red flag for me is anytime the Estefan family get involved with anything. I understand the need for free speech and when a government wants to censor an artist it should never be tolerated. But once Gloria and Emilio get involved I know it’s just to further their Anti-Castro/anti-socialists beliefs. The Cuban in the U.S. (otherwise known as Cuban Nationals OR by the derogatory term, gusanos, which translates to “maggots”) are the first to call for a boycott on artists from Cuba anytime they have attempted to perform in America. The Cubans Nationals are also the first to boycott artists such as Willie Colon, Andy Montañez and Veronica Castro for performing in Cuba and supporting the Cuba. So how are the Estefans going to knock Chavez for censorship when they do the same thing?
I have no problem with Sanz’ fight or the artists that signed his petition, but it’s self-centered and shortsighted at best. For instance, his petition doesn’t mention other countries that don’t allow artists with dissenting opinions into their country, The United States is guilty of this very thing and makes Venezuela look like Amsterdam in comparison. During the Bush regime it has been difficult for almost all non-European bands to get visas to play in the U.S. Just today, I looked in the L.A. Weekly to see who was coming to town. Angelique Kidjo, (A recent Grammy award winner) Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Perú Negro (who you can see live at Amoeba Hollywood on March 2nd, Amoeba San Francisco on March 17th!) were the only artists that weren’t from North America or Europe coming to town in the next month. When I saw Tinariwen back in November, only half the band was present for the show, as the rest did not get their visas. It made for a mediocre show when the band itself is spectacular.
If Sanz really cares for free speech and is not just in some pissing match with Chavez, he needs to look at the bigger picture of artist censorship. Sanz is playing into a right wing agenda that is quick to pass judgment on their enemies but never looks at themselves..