Caracas (CNN)Luis Fonsi, the singer behind the wildly popular song “Despacito,” often applauds others who cover his big hit. But not this time.
On Monday, Fonsi condemned Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro for creating an altered version of “Despacito” to promote an upcoming referendum that opponents say will erode the last signs of democracy in the South American nation.
“My music is for all those who want to listen to it and enjoy it, (but it’s) not to be used as propaganda that intends to manipulate the will of a people that’s crying out for liberty and a better future,” Fonsi wrote in a statement posted to his Instagram account.
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Maduro debuted his version of “Despacito” at a rally on Sunday to promote the July 30 vote. The rhythm and chorus are similar to the original “Despacito,” which is the most streamed song of all time. But the lyrics are entirely different.
“We have a big message for you, it’s called ‘the constituent,’ which only wants to unify the country,” the song begins, referring to the name of the vote.
Reggaetn star Daddy Yankee, who sings in a remix of the song with Justin Bieber, also condemned Maduro’s mash-up.
He said it came as little surprise that someone who had “stolen so many lives” would illegally appropriate a song for a “disastrous marketing plan.”
“Your dictatorial regime is not only a mockery for my Venezuelan brothers but for the entire world,” he said in an Instagram post Monday.
Maduro isn’t the first in Venezuela to use “Despacito” for political means. Venezuelan opposition leaders created a modified version of it to rally voters for an unofficial vote on July 16 against Maduro’s referendum. Fonsi didn’t object to that version.
Fonsi posted a message earlier in July cheering the release of Leopoldo Lopez, one of Maduro’s biggest political opponents who had been imprisoned since 2014 on disputed charges of encouraging violence. Fonsi also posted a video in June of young Venezuelans singing his song.
The referendum would replace the opposition-controlled National Assembly with an entirely new institution, the constituent assembly, filled with more than 500 Maduro supporters. He could then rewrite the constitution to his liking and strip political power away from opponents.
Months of protests against the referendum and Maduro have left close to 100 people dead. On Monday, protesters held a vigil to those who have died. Witnesses told CNN that police dispersed the youth with rubber bullets.
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