Gustavo Dudamel defends appearance in Venezuela on the day of deadly protests.

Fending off criticism for his appearance with President Nicolas Maduro on the day street protests across Venezuela left three dead, conductor Gustavo Dudamel has said he and colleagues stand for “peace, love and unity.”

Protests were instigated by students protesting high inflation, crime and resource scarcities in Venezuela, however demonstrations turned violent when government supporters opened fire on them. Government officials maintain that student protestors were at fault.

On the same day Dudamel conducted the Youth Orchestra of Lara to mark the 39th anniversary of the El Sistema youth orchestra program and 200th anniversary of the Battle of Victoria – a crucial milestone in Venezuela’s struggle for independence. Maduro was in attendance at the concert.

Self-exiled Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero has posted an open letter on her Facebook page criticizing Dudamel, saying by aligning himself with Maduro, he is ignoring “the toxic oasis” in which she says El Sistema now operates.

“On Feb 12, we crossed a line as a nation when a peaceful demonstration was marred by murder and the same organized thuggery that has killed so many in recent years, spurred by the government and its militias,” Montero wrote. “Dudamel has...