Venezuela is less than a week from the vote called by President Nicolas Maduro to elect for members of a constituent assembly that would start redrafting the country’s constitution — a move widely criticized as an attempt to expand government’s power while disempowering citizens.
Widespread public displeasure with Maduro’s effort has manifested itself in numerous street protests — continuing a period of protest that has gripped the country since April — and in an unofficial referendum organized on short notice by the opposition that drew more than 7 million of the country’s 19 million registered voters out to reject Maduro’s plan.
The Venezuelan president has said the vote will go ahead, however, and he has continued his campaign to support it. The latest part of that campaign appears to be a version of the Spanish-language pop song “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, which recently become the most streamed song of all time.
Maduro, who debuted the song over the weekend on his show, “Los Domingos con Maduro,” did not specify who made his version, referring only to “a group of creators.”
“We going to see if it also passes the test to become viral,” Maduro said before the music started.
“For the unity and peace of our country … the constituent [assembly] goes on,” begins the song, which you can see in the video below.
The government has indicated that the song was sent to the president by Ernesto Villegas, the minister of communication and information, according to El Nuevo Herald.
Panamanian composer Erika Ender, who coauthored the song, rejected its use by Maduro.
“To see that a song, on which I was coauthor, is used without permission in order publicize campaigns tied to a regime that is causing discontent and suffering in a country, far from making me happy, it angers me,” she wrote in an Instagram post. “I DO NOT APPROVE of its use.”
“At no time have I authorized the use of ‘Despacito’ or a lyric change to promote any political agenda, especially in the middle of the deplorable situation that Venezuela, a country that I love very much, is experiencing,” Fonsi said in a statement emailed to Business Insider on Monday evening. “My music is for everyone who wants to listen to it and enjoy it and is not intended to be used to manipulate the will of a country where the people are loudly begging for their freedom and a better future.”
Daddy Yankee also criticized both the unauthorized use of the song and the Venezuelan government’s action against citizens.
Despite a years-long political and economic deterioration and months of violence, Maduro has maintained about 20% support among Venezuelans, but his constituent assembly has been rejected by an overwhelming majority of the country and drawn international rebuke.
Most of the region voiced support for the July 16 referendum convened by the opposition against the assembly, and the EU and the US have suggested they could level sanctions on the Maduro government should the July 30 vote go ahead.
The opposition continues to call for protest, and it plans to mount a nationwide strike on Wednesday and Thursday this week, after a similar action last week. Ahead of the 48-hour strike, opposition leaders have encouraged Venezuelans to stock up on food and other goods — a call echoed by the US embassy in Venezuela.
Shortages have already left many stores and and shops in Venezuela empty or understocked, and Twitter users in Caracas reported that grocery-stores shelves around the city were bare, due to both the shortages and people shopping in preparation for the strike.