12/27/2014

MI CV (por solicitud de lectores)

Curriculum Vitae
Carlos Manuel Añez Di Prisco

2014

CI Nº:   V-1.848.845   
Nació: Puerto Cabello - Venezuela  24 enero 1938
Educación Primaria y Secundaria: Colegio La Salle - Barquisimeto and Caracas
Educación Superior: Ingeniero Civil, 1959  Universidad Central de Venezuela - UCV
Post grado:
Doctor of Philosophy, Historia y Estudios Sociales de la Ciencia, Universidad de Sussex, 1973-1978 (1980); Doctoral disertación: “International Transfer of Technology for Oil and Gas Exploration and Production with special reference to the Venezuelan oil industry.”
Master en Planificación Económica y Regional , Cendes-UCV, 1966 - 67
Diploma (Estructuras de Concreto Armado) Politécnico di Milano,  Italia, 1963

Idiomas : Español, Inglés, Francés e Italiano

EXPERIENCIA PROFESIONAL   

1960 - 1962:           Sub-director Conservación y Mantenimiento UCV, Caracas
1962 - 1965:           Director Oficina Planificación de Construcciones, UCV, Caracas
1968 - 1969:           Jefe de Planificación, Gerencia Planificación, CANTV, Caracas
1969 - 1972:           Secretario Ejecutivo del CONICIT; Caracas
1978 - 1986:           Vice-Presidente - Grupo Formiconi - Construcciones  petroleras y fabricación de calderería pesada.
1986 - 1988:           Director Técnico - OTEPI, C. A. –Ingeniería proyectos de plantas petroleras, siderúrgicas e industriales.
1988 - 1990:          Director de Proyecto - Construcción de edificio en Porlamar.
1990 - 1992:          Director General de FINTEC  Fondo de financiamiento de Innovación Industrial
1993 - 1996:          Presidente de FLP de Venezuela CA Lodos de perforación y control de sólidos
1995 - 1996:          Miembro de la Junta Directiva (Director Externo) - SIDOR-
1996 - 1999:          Fundador y Presidente de DEKANTER SERVICIOS AMBIENTALES C.A.,  Control de sólidos y manejo de desechos de perforación de pozos.
2002 – 2011           Director Junta Directiva de SIVENSA y subsidiarias- Grupo privado de empresas  manufactureras de productos de hierro y acero.
1999 a la fecha       Consultor independiente Estudios, análisis, evaluaciones y reestructuración de negocios.  

CARGOS ACADEMICOS

1961 - 1967:     Instructor,  Departamento de Estructuras, Facultad de Ingeniería, UCV
1963 - 1965:     Profesor Asistente, Análisis Estructural, Facultad de Arquitectura, UCV
1973 - 1975:     Junior Research Fellow, Science Policy Research Unit, SPRU, University of Sussex, Sussex, UK
1975 - 1978:     Profesor Investigador, CENDES, UCV
2005 – 2008: Profesor Contratado – IESA - Caracas

12/23/2014

SELECCIÓN DE VIEJAS NOTAS GASTRONÓMICAS (Nostalgia caraqueña) Por Carlos M. Añez

NOTA GASTRONÓMICA  26 marzo 2004
Hoy estuve almorzando con Esther, mi mujer, en el restaurante Le Gourmet del Hotel Tamanaco. Tenía tiempo interesado en probar esa cocina porque me habían dicho que era de las mejores de Caracas en la actualidad.  ¡Bingo!  Se trata de alta cocina de verdad. No es, como dicen algunos, cocina clásica francesa aunque ese paradigma está presente en, por ejemplo, la “reduccion” para construir salsas, el “confit” para glorificar carnes y el “amuse-bouche” para despertar el apetito. Se trata de cocina de ahora, de la que están haciendo los jóvenes de esa pléyade de cocineros venezolanos al regreso de sus expediciones culinarias formativas en el exterior.
Nos ofrecieron un amuse-bouche formado con unos mini-crocantes montados con cebolla caramelizadas en un platillo salpicado con el pesto más livianito que se pueda pensar. ¡Delicioso!
Me decidí por almorzar con el “leitmotiv” de pato. Comencé con unos ravioli de pasta aromatizada con cacao y rellenos de un “pisillo” de pato horneado sencillito pero exquisito, con una salsa de vino y quizá hongos, acompañados con unas hojas de espinacas salteadas con piñones. Simplemente espectaculares.
Pero luego me llegó “il capolavoro”. Pedí la “magret” de pato a las tres especies con risotto de nueces y no-me -acuerdo-que-más que me dejo estupefacto. Paul Launois (así se llama el Chef) hace una reducción de vinos y fondo de pato que tiene el look de la orimulsion y el sabor de la gloria. Luego hace un risotto con arborio y le agrega unas nueces en trocitos y otras transformadas en una crema en el mortero. Cosa seria. Luego toma la “magret” (pechuga)  que debe haber sido marinada al seco con tres pimientas, (no sé si le quita la piel o se la deja porque no la distinguí pero la grasita se la encontré) y la sella al fuego vivísimo, “a point”. Me imagino que, aparte, en el fondo de pato cocina lentamente (braissé) los muñoncitos de las alas que le quedan enteritos pero deshaciéndose. No si me explico.
Finalmente monta el plato con el risotto en el centro coronado por las alitas, el magret cortado transversal en medialuna, la reducción regadita alrededor como hacen estos muchachos de ahora y adorna con unas cuantas tiritas de un tubérculo amarillo o algo parecido “deep fried” que le quedan divinas. ¡Voila!  ¡Sensacional!  ¡Magistral! 
Encontré el servicio muy bueno.  Un poco demasiado cerca, lo que cohíbe la conversación pero amabilísimo y abundante. La cava de vinos contrasta por lo escueta, quizá para mantener la factura baja, pero me hizo falta algo más de selección. Los precios son como los de los restaurantes que hay bajando la colina del Hotel. Felicitaciones y buena suerte
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NOTA GASTRONÓMICA  13 agosto 2004               
Mi hijo Marcelo me envió esta tarde el siguiente mensaje: “Acabo de oír en las noticias que acaba de morir Julia Child.  Tenía 91 años. Para mí, creciendo en esta familia, esa señora es como una tía que nunca llegue a conocer pero que siempre estuvo por ahí presente. Un abrazo. Marcelo”. De verdad que se me salieron lágrimas. Me vinieron velozmente memorias de momentos muy agradables e importantes en mi vida que resultaron así por lo que aprendí de Julia, que me conmovieron y que ahora me llevan a escribir esta nota para mis amigos.
Comencé a cocinar muy joven ayudando a veces a mi abuelo Carlo los fines de semana antes de casarme. Cuando me casé, de inmediato intenté cocinar solo y luego de algunos desastres me di cuenta que no sabía hacerlo. En los años 60, tuve la suerte de vincularme a un grupo de intelectuales amigos de mi tío Rafael que además eran sibaritas, algunos de los cuales sabían cocinar y con ellos, con unas revistas y con mi pasión por la cocina mejoré algo. Mas tarde, en el año 67 se formó el grupo del tenis que llamamos la “Copa Beer Point” cuyos restos todavía subsisten. Los sábados, sus miembros jugaban, tomaban cerveza y almorzaban grandes platos de pasta cocinados por mí bebiendo cantidades pasmosas de vino. Las salsas estaban siempre basadas en un sofrito de cebolla y ajo en aceite de oliva al cual se le agregaban luego latas de tomates pelados y lo que tuviéramos a la mano: atún, sardinas, vongole, chipirones o chorizo. En fin, lo que fuera. Me consideraban un gran cocinero.
Luego vino el post-grado en Brighton (Inglaterra). Allá tuve que cocinar todos los días para mi familia y como tuve la suerte de que coincidieran varios amigos con sendos post-grados en la misma Universidad, instauramos algo parecido a lo que veníamos haciendo en el grupo del tenis de los sábados. Entre los amigos que me acompañaron en Sussex estuvo José Agustín Silva Michelena, gran amigo y gran cocinero. Su esposa, la Chef María Antonia Becerra, fue quien me regaló el primer libro de Julia Child, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. Entonces comencé a convertirme en un cocinero de verdad. Me estudié ese libro de tapa a tapa. Llegue a comprar (y todavía tengo) cuatro ejemplares. Uno empastado está en mi biblioteca y tres, en edición de bolsillo, cubren mis necesidades: uno en mi cocina de Caracas, otro en mi cocina de Margarita y un tercero en mi mesa de noche para consultas improvisas o para insomnios. Con la formación que me dio el “Mastering” es como pude llegar a dominar los fundamentos de la alta cocina amateur. Con ellos pude entonces aprender de lo que me ofrecieron muchos otros cocineros en libros, en restaurantes o en sus propias cocinas.
Julia escribió en la introducción de su libro “The Way to Cook” (que, de paso, es el que ahora recomiendo a quien quiera aprender a cocinar) que “Cenar con amigos y familiares queridos es ciertamente una de las delicias mas primigenias e inocentes de la vida que además llena el alma y es eterna”. Así pienso yo. Mi vida se enriqueció por las innumerables ocasiones que mi cocina me hizo posible sentarme a la mesa con gente querida y admirada. A sus enseñanzas las aprecio como el origen de las grandes satisfacciones y alegrías que he tenido en mi vida cocinando para mis amigos, para mi familia y recientemente, para mi nieta Adriana (11) y sus amiguitas de los viernes. Por eso quise tanto a Julia, sin haberla jamás conocido personalmente.
Recordando las dificultades y costos de cenar bien en mi viaje de bodas en 1960 en Estados Unidos, no olvido que Julia es la más importante entre las responsables de que ahora ese país sea de deliciosa gastronomía y tampoco que su influencia se ha extendido en otras geografías incluyendo la nuestra en Venezuela. Honor entonces a la memoria de una gran y generosa maestra de la buena cocina.
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NOTA GASTRONÓMICA  20 agosto 2004
A veces uno se queda solo para almorzar. Cuando me eso me sucede me voy al Restaurante Dena Ona en la Avenida Tamanaco de El Rosal. Trato de llegar temprano para poder encontrar puesto en la barra. Las barras son buenas para clientes solos porque se tiene a los “barmen” para conversar. (Por cierto, en Miami me he encontrado con algunas “barwomen” muy interesantes, “if you know what I mean”)  Después les comentaré más sobre las barras en Caracas.
El Dena Ona es uno de esos viejos restaurantes de Caracas algo decadentes y que no tienen (ni pretenden que tienen) alta cocina ni mucho menos. Simplemente, ofrecen estilos de cocina regionales ibéricos y saben que allá les llegamos muchos caraqueños desde hace años. Mejor dicho, desde hace décadas. El Dena Ona es uno de los mejores. Allí se va a comer cosas elementales archi-conocidas y popularísimas de la cocina tradicional española: tortilla de papas, jamón serrano, chipirones en su tinta, pimientos rellenos, cocido asturiano, mero en salsa verde, crema catalana, quesillo y demás estimulantes de la sed. A veces he encontrado empanada gallega, dorada, olorosa y sabrosísima, preparada por la esposa del dueño en su casa.
Pero a mí lo que más me interesa es lo que hacen los plancheros. A la vista de quienes nos sentamos en la barra en el restaurante debajo de la fila de jamones guindados, está el sitio donde se cocinan a la plancha pescados, mariscos y otras sabrosuras. Hay tres plancheros: Tenorio, el más veterano, y dos más jóvenes que se alternan en turnos de ritmo semanal o quizá mensual. Obviamente por alguna magia comercial, el Dena Ona tiene siempre la pesca más fresca del día: parguitos del tamaño justo, lebranches abiertos, filetes de dorado, ruedas de sierra, de atún o de pez espada, langostinos de cinco pulgadas y cuando viene la temporada, espectaculares langostas vivas que te dan la bienvenida en un estanque al entrar. Disponen también de otras curiosidades como calamares, champiñones, chistorras y los sencillos pinchos de pescado con pimentón y cebolla para quienes estén a dieta.
Todo eso se prepara en unas planchas curadas y mantenidas por muchos años que se calientan a una temperatura tan precisa y adecuada que no vacilo en considerarla como el factor más importante de la calidad de esa cocina. Claro, son Tenorio y sus colegas los que saben cuál temperatura es esa y lo que de allí sale son verdaderas obras maestras del “plancheo”. La barra me permite no solo disfrutar de lo que me llega en el plato sino que además me deja ver como hacen que parezca fácil eso de tomar un parguito, hacerle tres cortes en el costado, aceitar un punto de la plancha, poner el parguito encima, agregarle sal solo por arriba y dejarlo que se dore poco a poco hasta que sin que medie alarma o cronómetro tangible, el planchero volteé el pescado y lo deje terminar de dorar. A un cierto tiempo, que no me he atrevido a medir, el planchero lo declara listo y lo que sale de allí, repito, es una obra maestra: un pescado dorado, “tostaíto” por fuera y jugoso por dentro. Yo acostumbro pedirlo acompañado sólo con papas al vapor, aceite de oliva y limón y a veces pido salsa tártara.
Si alguien ha intentado hacer eso en un sartén en su cocina sabrá que lo que estoy describiendo no es nada fácil. Por bueno que sea el sartén, el pescado se pega, se rompe, suelta jugo y no se dora y suceden toda clase de imprevistos. He probado pescado a la plancha desde que era adolecente, especialmente en Margarita cuando en los años 80 había unos lugares cerca de Playa El Agua que intentaban cocinar pescado a la plancha. Recuerdo uno que se llamaba Shangri La. Que desastre!! Por eso Tenorio y sus colegas del Dena Ona me resultan admirables.
Para completar, la barra atendida por Victor, Antonio y otros veteranos de la cálida y simpática atención venezolana y unos precios moderados hacen del Dena Ona uno de mis llegaderos preferidos.
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NOTA GASTRONÓMICA 2 noviembre 2004          
Siempre me he preguntado por qué en las artes se abandonan paradigmas estéticos que no han sido agotados. Puedo entender que en las ciencias naturales el proceso kuhniano de sustitución de paradigmas de captación y validación del conocimiento sea lo que históricamente ha ocurrido. Después de todo, cada modelo nuevo nos acerca a la verdad. En otras palabras, en las ciencias hay una dirección de progreso que, aunque sea implícita y haya que descubrirla, es válida porque nos resuelve enigmas y nos muestra cada vez más universo. Pero, ¿por qué en música, por ejemplo?  ¿Por qué se abandonaron las maravillosas formas musicales de los siglos XVIII y XIX? ¿Por qué la música contemporánea se hace tan ininteligible? ¿Por qué no pueden convivir paradigmas estéticos competidores?  Pues así mismo me lo pregunto en la cocina, ¿Por qué se van abandonando los patrones de alta cocina que nos condujeron hasta aquí? ¿Por qué no continuar articulándolos y disfrutándolos en su infinito potencial?  Nótese que solo pregunto, no me opongo. Solo quisiera saber por qué el ser humano hace eso.
Afortunadamente hay  gente que parece que piensa en esto. Después de unos seis años, regresé a Le Petit Bistrot de Jacques y me encontré con la grata sorpresa de que la cocina de Marc Provost había continuado “articulando” el paradigma clásico.  Un poco más amplio que mi imagen de bistrot, el restaurante mantiene sus manteles de cuadritos rojos, sus avisos en la pared con “le plat du jour” y sus platos son servidos sin adornos inútiles aunque nítidos y atractivos. Regresé atraído por los menús que, por e-mail, me ha enviado Jacques Bouvet, (el propietario y socio de Provost) cada semana desde hace más de un año y disfruté de la cocina de un maestro de quien la Sauce Bearnaise es la genuina que sabe a estragón y no a perejil marchito pero que es capaz de montar un delicadísimo tartare de langostinos sobre un carpaccio de zanahorias al dente perfecto y coronarlo con un sorbete de limón nada clásico. Sin mayor drama, tal sabroso atrevimiento puede ser seguido por un asado de cordero con una archi-tradicional sauce brune deliciosa, brillante y cristalina y todavía se puede ordenar la famosa ensalada con queso brie cubierto con ajonjolí tostado a la miel que tienen 18 años ofreciéndola.
En los años 70 mi grupo de amigos y yo teníamos afecto quasi religioso por Paris y sus restaurantes. Quien viajara a esa ciudad tenía que llegar contando cuantas estrellas (de la Michelín) traía entre pecho y espalda. Le Grand Vefour de Raymond Olivier era la meca. Sin embargo, había un bistrot que no tuvo estrellas pero que para nosotros valía como si las tuviese. Era el Restaurant des Beaux Arts de Monsieur Poussineau en la calle del mismo nombre, a unos metros de la famosa escuela de bellas artes. En su menú, del cual muchos de nosotros todavía atesoramos alguna copia, estaba todo lo que un bistrot parisien tenía que tener. Desde las coquilles saint jacques hasta la tarte tatin pasando por tournedos au poivre, bouef bourguignon y la soup a l´oignon. Pero era el fabuloso coq au vin de salsa oscura y olorosa lo que nos volvía sus fanáticos. A mi edad ya no puedo cenar con tres platos como esos porque me enfermo, pero no dejo de pensar que esa cocina era, mejor dicho, es maravillosa. En verdad, sus métodos han sido la base de la alta cocina hasta el presente.

Pues, les digo, el Petit Bistrot me recuerda al Beaux Arts con la ventaja de que Provost hace una cocina más liviana que me permite sobrevivir mejor. He ido dos veces.  Una de noche y otra al almuerzo. En la nocturna encontré música viva de dos jóvenes venezolanos que son hermanos. Hombre el pianista y mujer la cantante.  Ofrecen boleritos suaves de Lucho Gatica y Armando Manzanero. Aunque me gustó lo que oí, le pregunté a Jacques que por que esa música y me respondió que después de 18 años, no se aguanta a la Piaff  todas las noches. A lo mejor por eso es que cambian los paradigmas!!!

12/18/2014

BAKER, GEOFFREY; “EL SISTEMA: Orchestrating Venezuela´s Youth”, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, 2014 A review by Carlos M. Añez, December 2014

When my great friend and tutor Charles Cooper (R.I.P.) read the first draft of my D.Phil. thesis he scribbled many comments in the margins and in the first page he wrote: "Too many words". Of course, I had to rewrite the text. In this case, I have to tell Geoffrey Baker the same. Three hundred and sixty two pages are far more than is necessary to support what he sets out to argue. However, he has written an important book for whoever is interested in El Sistema.  
Baker explains that he became impressed with the emotional density of the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra concert at The Proms in London in 2007 and that made him decide to study El Sistema.  He assures that he went to Venezuela for field work as an admirer of its musical achievements. He was officially received as a guest of honor and it was only when he began to be “surprised” by being told, privately and confidentially, information about the conflictual and tortuous process of development of the institution that he adjusted his academic research program to be able to write this book. This is not credible. It is hard to believe that Baker thought all what he argues in the book as a result of his field work in Venezuela.
Firstly, it is wholly clear that he is a scholar expert on social studies of music and as such he had quite a solid baggage of theoretical and ideological positions when he began his Venezuelan journey. Secondly, some of the core points under his attack were obviously evident even when he happened to attend the 2007 Last Night at the Proms concert. For instance:  El Sistema emphasis on the symphonic orchestra. The book is more than a critical analysis of El Sistema as a social and musical entity. It is rather a wide deployment of Baker´s ideological positions regarding historical relations of music with society and I should say about socioeconomic development in general, on the basis of a case study: El Sistema in Venezuela. Anyway, he has done a thorough academic job for which I offer my compliments.
Based on a promotional article that Baker published in The Guardian, some people publicly expressed outright support for his arguments, even before the book became available. Being politically motivated, they welcomed the book as an attack on El Sistema and its leaders, José Antonio Abreu and Gustavo Dudamel. However, after reading the book it becomes clear that Baker´s article was an unjust deformation of the width, seriousness and honesty of his research perhaps motivated to promote sales. I admit it misled me. The book is a monumental tour de force of written hearsay. It´s ethnography, after all. Such is the social research method that Baker says he applied to acquire the information that allowed him to write the book.
The problem is that ethnography researchers are supposed to interact with members of the community they are studying without discrimination of pre-determined categories or groups. It seems that Baker had ears only for critics, skeptics, disgruntled musicians and political adversaries of Abreu and El Sistema. Puzzlingly, he says: “I met many people who enjoyed being part of El Sistema…” (p.16) but then no account is made of their appreciations in the following pages. Actually, he is pretty clear about it stating that “This book focuses on the narratives that are currently inaudible and the ways they complicate the official one; it brings out into the open debates that normally take place in private” (p.17). Since there seems to be some debate and “it takes two to tango” I suppose we have to wait for perhaps a second book that hopefully will present the arguments of the other observers and member of the Sistema community that are missing this time. In the meantime, Baker feels compelled to clarify that “[His] relationship with El Sistema, however, is neutral.” and that “What follows may not be the truth but contains some (inconvenient) truths …” (p.20). The reader remains wondering whether Baker´s neutrality warrants a clear and impartial understanding of the cultural value of El Sistema and its real impact on Venezuelan society or it simply serves the reader a chance of peeking into the minutiae of power plays and the misery of petty quarreling typical of large organizations.
The first two chapters, following the Introduction, are dedicated to depict the roles of Abreu and Dudamel. The explicit aim is to bring to light the true character and personality traits of these two leaders of El Sistema from behind the public images that, according to Baker, have been carefully crafted by some professional and explicitly hired world class PR machinery. The result is the characterization of Abreu - who “…is a hard man to investigate” (p.27) - as an authoritarian, ruthless, vengeful, manipulative, arrogant, secretive, unscrupulous and enormously ambitious politician (and musician) who has also shown to be intolerant of critics. His conservatism, Catholic religiosity and elitism are said to explain much of his behavior. His entire professional and political career is displayed and discussed for the benefit, I suppose, of foreign readers since all that is presented is well known to any well-informed Venezuelan. The characterization is based on informants’ accounts and publicly available reports and press clippings. Several times along the text Baker points out that he could not verify or confirm the information, which is fair enough. Again, it´s ethnography he is attempting.
When it comes to Dudamel, Baker´s neutrality is strained. Dudamel´s musical talents are not discussed. In fact, they are not even mentioned. The conductor´s public image is the object of Baker´s analysis and his rise to stardom is the target of the criticism. It is while referring to Dudamel when Baker´s ideology begins to emerge in the book and his neutrality begins to crack and slip away. Although Dudamel´s rise is anecdotally reported as a conjunction of Abreu´s decision to promote him and Gustavo´s decision to submit himself to his authority, it is the actions of his PR agents that shock Baker. He criticizes strongly that Dudamel landed a contract to advertise Rolex watches; that he is paid $1,4 million a year by LA Symphony Orchestra; that he got a contract with Deutche Gramophone;  that he gets large fees for concerts in famous venues, like the Salzburg Festival through the actions of his world class agents and that he travels with all the paraphernalia typical of the jet set. However, Baker´s criticism is not limited to the individual case of Dudamel. Actually, Dudamel is criticized for the wider offence of belonging to the elite of the world musical industry. The culprits are really “music as business” and “art as spectacle” which, according to Baker, are precisely major sins of Abreu´s strategy regarding El Sistema.
I suppose world class performers such as, Yuja Wang, Katia Buniatishvili, Gabriela Montero, Riccardo Muti, Baremboim and his WEDO, Berlin Philharmonics, The Belcea Quartet and the likes will feel alluded by this vision of their disgusting selfish capitalistic exploitation of the sacred art of music making. Ça va sans dire, that we, classical music lovers, might also be found guilty for our dependence on the “international music industry” for listening recorded music and watching video concerts. Baker denounces that star orchestra conductors are making too much money just like CEOs in private corporations. He thinks that they are being paid salaries and bonuses many times above the salary of the average worker/musician and that is not fair. Thus, he brings the question into the realm of the social inequality issue being currently discussed in the world. Regarding this issue, it doesn´t seems fair to challenge the three of four musicians from El Sistema who have made it to the top for following the trend. It is certainly naïve to criticize the enormous salaries of music top stars as well as those of baseball or football players and other show business fees and celebrities earnings on the grounds of “justice”. You may propose many types of solutions to the inequality problem but it is simply neither fair nor realistic to criticize an individual star player for negotiating the highest pay possible. On the other hand, it´s not hard to understand that the larger the audience the bigger the pay.
Several times along the text Baker feels ethnography as a straitjacket and breaks away of its limits. His desire to display his ideological positions is restricted by the descriptive and diagnostic nature of the method. Therefore, after describing El Sistema’s features and while propounding a more democratic and shared style of decision making, he goes ahead and criticizes Abreu’s management and administrative policies as being authoritarian, hierarchical, centralist, arbitrary and clientelist corresponding  “…snugly to capitalist ideology” and to the ways of the “… Catholic Church, which ´demands authority, without offering, accountability´ (Deveney 2013)” (p.76).
Baker is haunted by the question of authority in music making and in society at large. He emphasizes the analogy of the hierarchical management situation of capitalist corporations, which he loathes, with the authoritarian relationships between the conductor and the musicians of an orchestra. He even goes on to express general rejection of “orchestral music” because of its need for conduction. Although it doesn´t become totally clear whether he is more in favor of “conductor-less” music-making such as soloist playing or chamber music he presents references of an impressive list of “scholarly” studies concluding that orchestra musicians everywhere are really an exploited, frustrated, unfairly paid, and suffering class. They are physically injured by too much rehearsal, publicly humiliated by conductors and engaged in hopeless careers. Furthermore, orchestras are not favorable for musical education.
The two chapters dedicated to musical education are very informative and I should say, pedagogical. I learned a lot reading them. However, as a classical music lover I remained worried. According to Baker, orchestral music is, to say the least, “questionable”. He writes: “If orchestras were widely considered to be positive social and professional environments, then there would be some basis for El Sistema’s position; but its claims founder on the numerous accounts by orchestral musicians and experts that reveal large classical ensembles to be permeated by social dysfunction, questionable ideologies and pedagogical flaws. The symphony orchestra appears to be a problematic institution, in Venezuela and elsewhere, leaving El Sistema’s core idea looking rather threadbare.” (p.132)… this sounds quite ominous to me. I wonder how the members of the great American and European symphony orchestras can nowadays resist the pressure of the dysfunctions and keep playing. Why do they not quit? They live in free countries. I suppose this must be similar to medical doctors, nurses, soldiers, ballet dancers, cooks and so many other “suffering” professions. They just love what they do.
The other chapter is just a sorrowful description of El Sistema music teaching being another quite familiar “Venezuelan hell”: “there are not enough teachers”; “the teacher did not come today”; “the salaries have not been paid for months”; “the spare strings for the violins have not arrived”; “the strings arrived but now the reeds for the clarinets are delayed”; “you cannot attend class because there is rehearsal now”; “administration used the money for salaries to pay for travel costs”; and etc. etc. etc. You know!!! … A good ethnography like this one would be interesting to be done on PDVSA, the judicial system, the army, the public schools, the hospitals, the “misiones’ and so many other institutions of XXI century Venezuela. I wouldn’t single out El Sistema.
This is the main weakness of Baker’s effort. He doesn’t seem to understand the historical period Venezuela is currently going through. There is not even one sentence mentioning the terrible destruction that the 15 years of the chavista dictatorship has brought to the country. That is perhaps why some people consider El Sistema as a “miracle”. Whatever it has come to be, it looks like an exception in the mid of that mess. Half the book is dedicated to dismantle Abreu’s claim of social action without acknowledging that such claim was just an indispensable fundraising stratagem to keep El Sistema growing in chavista times.  There was no philosophy, no music teaching theory, no social development thinking behind Abreu’s approach and later strategy. It was just political, as well as Chavez’s response. Baker is (“wasting his gunpowder on vultures” / gastando pólvora en zamuros) wasting his time demonstrating El Sistema´s failure to have a significant social impact on “inclusion” of poor children. At least in Venezuela, that is not the point. Perhaps, Baker´s arguments are useful to open the eyes of people in other countries but in Venezuela nobody is expecting that poor children will improve their lives because of the actions of El Sistema.
The question of sexual abuse figured prominently in Baker’s promotional article about his book and was subsequently expanded by other British commentator in another newspaper. Actually, Baker writes that he just heard rumors and hearsay about sexual activity amongst the youthful community of El Sistema. For a country having 16 years as the legal age for consent and being well known by its high statistical number of under-15 pregnancies, his account is hardly surprising. He found no concrete evidence of sexual abuse apart from gossips and suspicions expressed by some anonymous informants. However, the lack of specific references compels him to call for investigation of the matter because “Power imbalances are at the core of sexual abuse,”(p.232), “… El Sistema is no exception, since reports of abuse (psychological as well as sexual) from Venezuela suggest that endemic, problematic features of classical music education are being reproduced rather than revolutionized [there].”(p.231)  “At present, the allegations and suspicions [of sexual abuse] that circulate around El Sistema are no more than that. However, events in the United Kingdom illustrated that even world-renowned institutions had skeletons in their closets. … The fact that this problem has not emerged publicly in Venezuela does not therefore mean that it is insignificant there.”(p.232) In other words, Baker thinks that since El Sistema plays classical music, since symphonic orchestras are imbalanced power instances, since there have been abuse in classical music institutions in the UK, and since there are some monkey business among teachers and pupils,  … there must be some of that in El Sistema. We better investigate and take measures.
We must ask then, why do people still support El Sistema?  Including myself, for example?  My answer is, first of all, because it has given us good classical, European and Latin-American, old and contemporary orchestral music of the kind we love and also because it has increased the social appreciation of classical music in Venezuela and elsewhere; it has augmented somehow the quality and the quantity of musicians and music making in our country; it has snatched a few precious resources away from dilapidation and corruption and it has given us a little pride of being Venezuelans. All this is emotional all right but I sustain these are valid reasons.  Some people think the cost has been too large but, as per Baker´s estimate, at least 170.000 youngsters are learning music in EL Sistema and we have now some infrastructure and an organization that can certainly be changed for the better in the future.
A key point of my disagreement with Baker stems from his implied ideological position regarding the appropriate strategy that should be implemented in a country like ours.  Important social and economic scholars have argued in the past that underdeveloped countries should adopt a strategy that avoids competing with developed countries by not trying to enter into the frontiers of advanced technological competition among the dominant economic powers of the world. Such approach implies that it is hopeless and wasteful to enter into a race for a place in the key ranges of world economy. In this paradigm E. F. Schumacher wrote his book “Small is Beautiful” in the 1970s. According to that view underdeveloped countries would be better off by trying to apply production technologies that could be more adapted to their abundance of labor, their scarcity of capital and their low level of social organization and governance. This sort of arguments is still part of a truly paternalistic ideology that permeates wide sectors of the western academic community. However, as anybody can see, it hides the belief that underdevelopment is going to be a permanent trait of the world forever and that it is preferable to capitalist development (ref. p. 104). 
Contrastingly, I believe that without attempting to advance through jump starting innovations and efforts, underdeveloped countries will have no hope to catch up. I also think that it is just not morally valid to propose developing a separate world for the poorest countries isolating them from the global advances of humanity even if these were historically originated in The West. Thus, when these thinkers criticize (ref. p.187) the focus on classical, orchestral and performance-oriented music-making in countries like Venezuela on the grounds that it is an elitist European centered strategy, reminiscent of the colonial past, I have to reject it as well because I want my country to be aiming to be culturally wealthy and strong and not left behind. We must be able to compete in any field: economic, scientific, artistic, political and whatever. I want my people to play and enjoy our folk music and the music of our composers but also that of the greatest geniuses of history.
The last chapter is an effort to look constructive after all. Baker sets out to explore ways to make good use of some of El Sistema´s “illusions”, “practices” and “ideals” that have remained in “lip service” status. By doing so he finally but implicitly acknowledges that there have been some benefits of Abreu´s endeavor. However, he says that it is the way that El Sistema is being interpreted, followed and adapted in the other 70 countries (he presents the cases of Scotland, Brazil, Colombia, USA and Australia) where it is being more or less reproduced, that seems to be pointing in the right direction, not because the Venezuelan Sistema has shown the way. Emphasis on including needy children, on community relationships, on professional teaching of music, on promoting of creativity and diversity, and other policies of the sort, leads him to express hope that the whole idea could be socially beneficially. “´Social action through music´ is an important idea that deserves careful consideration” he says… after all!
Trying hard I could summarize Baker´s interpretation, in the last chapter, of the underlying political soup as follows (ref p.309): El Sistema has been always conservative and traditionalist and as such it had the support of conservative groups in Venezuela. Abreu decided to give it a leftist “social” façade in order to get money from Chavez. Then the conservative sectors rejected the Sistema because, for them, it became chavista while the cultural left in the UK supported it because it sounded “social” which, as shown, it is not and since El Sistema is based on the authoritative, exploitative and anti-democratic XIX century symphony orchestra they should not support it. Then everybody is wrong and Abreu and Dudamel are the only ones profiting. How about that?
His comparative analysis leads him to propose a series of measures aimed at improving the social impact of El Sistema in Venezuela. He is right on that point, of course. For instance, in regional terms El Sistema could be managed better. His remarks about the need to reinforce regional “nucleos” vis-a-vis the ones in Caracas are truly valid. His comments about the excessive scale and cost of performing infrastructure (auditoriums) in detriment of basic resources like instruments and accessories are obviously correct, to say the least, and so on.

After reading the book one remains with the impression that in spite of its inexplicable overkill of Abreu, Dudamel, the symphony orchestra and classical music education, it is a useful academic study for future research and action in Venezuela and elsewhere.