'Despacito' Artists Slam Venezuela's Nicolás Maduro for Using Song to Sell Power Grab

Image: Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a gathering in support of him and his proposal for the National Constituent Assembly in Caracas
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a gathering in support of him and his proposal for the National Constituent Assembly in Caracas on Tuesday.Handout / Reuters

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By Eoghan Macguire

Beset by violent protests and facing a 48-hour national shutdown, Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro would be advised to go without making unnecessary enemies.

But his co-opting of global pop hit "Despacito" on live TV has drawn a sharp and public slap-down from its popular Puerto Rican singers, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee.

The left-wing leader was seen clapping along to a version of the song with lyrics altered to encourage Venezuelans to vote for a Constituent Assembly — a proposed new body that will have powers to rewrite the national charter and supersede other institutions.

As the song begins to play, Maduro can be seen telling the audience “lets see if it goes viral.” Afterwards, he asks: "What do you think, eh? Is this video approved?"

Yet the political remix was far from popular with the original artists.

“At no time I have been consulted or have I authorized the use or change of Despacito lyrics for political ends, less so in the context of the deplorable situation affecting a country that I love so much as #Venezuela,” Luis Fonsi wrote in a post to his 4.5 million followers on Instagram.

“My music is for all of those that want to listen to it and enjoy it, not to use it as propaganda that tries to manipulate the will of the people that are crying out for their freedom and a better future,” he added.

Daddy Yankee used his Instagram account, which has 16.5 million followers, to post an image of Maduro with a red cross drawn over the top of it. "With this nefarious marketing plan, you only highlight your fascist ideal," he wrote in the text that accompanied the image.

Erika Ender, who co-wrote the song, also commented on the photo-sharing site, saying she did not agree with the way it had been used. “I love Venezuela, a land that has given me true brothers in my heart. Brothers who suffer because of the situation that exists,” she said.

Despacito, which translates from Spanish as “slowly” and contains raunchy lyrics including “I want to undress you with my kisses, slowly,” is the most popular song in the history of YouTube having been viewed more than 2.7 billion times.

A remix featuring Justin Bieber was released earlier this year and it was last week announced as the most streamed song of all time by Universal.

However, it’s sexually explicit theme has led to it being banned on public radio stations in Malaysia after politicians there described it as “obscene.”

The version played on Venezuelan TV contained less exciting lyrics, including: "It is the call to the constituent that only wants to unite the country."

Photos: In Venezuela, Upheaval Shows No Sign of Slowing Down

Despite being oil-rich, Venezuela is suffering from a deep recession and hyperinflation. The country has also been beset by shortages of basic food and medical equipment.

Millions have taken to the streets to protest in recent months, heaping pressure on the Maduro's government.

More than 100 people have died in the unrest which has frequently turned violent, further hammering the economy, Reuters reports.

A vote is set to be held on the Constituent Assembly this Sunday with critics saying it is an attempt by unpopular leader to consolidate his power.

Opposition parties have said they will boycott the vote and have called for conventional elections, which they believe they would win, instead.

An informal referendum, in which seven million people rejected the idea of the Constituent Assembly, was held by opposition parties earlier this month.

Maduro says the special assembly is the only way to bring peace back to the Venezuela, Reuters reports.

Laura Saravia and Reuters contributed.