Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro claps along to "Despacito"

Screengrab via Aristegui Noticias/YouTube

Venezuelan president turns ‘Despacito’ into election propaganda that’s muy caliente

The original songwriters are furious.


Vanna Vasquez

Layer 8

Published Jul 25, 2017   Updated May 22, 2021, 10:48 pm CDT

Beleaguered Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro deployed a creative attempt to gain popularity with voters this week. But his propaganda cover of the global Spanish-language hit “Despacito” mostly backfired.

On Sunday Maduro promoted the remixed song to encourage the Venezuelan people to vote for the Constituent Assembly on July 30, a national vote that would redraft the country’s constitution. Maduro claims the new draft will help the country regain peace. Many of his citizens, who call him a dictator, say it will do the opposite. Critics say the Assembly is an attempt to override the existing parliament. As Venezuela moves to form a Cuban-styled congress, it’s easy to see why the citizens compare him to a dictator.

With low popularity and an approval rating of 20 percent, it seems like Maduro believed his only card left was “Despacito.”

“Despacito” this summer became the most-streamed song of all time. It managed to be a hit in the Latin world, and a global sensation thanks to Justin Bieber’s remix. The song also has thousands of YouTube covers. It makes sense for Maduro to believe his cover could be his saving grace.

But Maduro has instead received backlash from Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, the Puerto Rican artists behind the song, for his shameless cover.

Posted by Luis Fonsi on Monday, July 24, 2017

Both artists called out the president for illegally using their song, and for his attempt to appropriate their hit that was not meant to relay his message.

“You will only continue to highlight your fascist ideal, which has killed hundreds of heroes and injured more than 2,000,” Daddy Yankee wrote on Instagram.

In the video, which has been removed from YouTube by Sony/ATV due to copyright claims, Maduro is all smiles while the music plays. He joins supporters to clap along to the hit tune. Maduro’s remixed lyrics are a message for voters to join him and stop protesting on the streets, a political act that has caused at least 55 deaths as of May, according to the Guardian.

“Show your voice by voting and not with bullets, use your ideas and always be calm,” goes Maduro’s version.

But in a country where the government’s economic disaster caused a food, medical, and electric shortage, citizens do not seem to be behind Maduro and his message of “Despacito,” which here roughly means “incremental progress.” Days before the release of his cover, Venezuelan activists held an unofficial vote which showed an overwhelming rejection of the Constituent Assembly. According to NPR, 98 percent of respondents opposed the constitutional rewrite.

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*First Published: Jul 25, 2017, 4:19 pm CDT