The coexistence of the harrowing and the upbeat, of victory and never-ending battle at devastating cost was a central, if unspoken, theme of the Oslo Freedom Forum conference last week in New York, Cathy Young writes.
Wuilly Arteaga, a slightly built 23-year-old Venezuelan musician who became famous for playing the violin at the recent street protests in Caracas, wowed the audience with his music and his story, told in Spanish through an interpreter.
Raised in a poor family, Arteaga was self-taught before joining El Sistema, the government-funded music education system. State largesse did not buy his obedience. He was near tears recounting his ordeal at the hands of the chavista security forces: arrest, brutal beatings that left him deaf in one ear, his violin smashed. Yet he considers himself "fortunate" compared to fellow protesters who were killed or are still imprisoned.