00:48 - Source: CNN
When the music stops
CNN  — 

He had become an icon, the violinist who played on as protesters and police clashed around him.

But on Wednesday, the music stopped.

Wuilly Arteaga says the National Guard took his violin from him and handed it back – in pieces.

“I was playing in the middle of the protest when National Guard vehicles approached us and one of the guards grabbed my violin by the strings,” Arteaga told Colombian news channel NTN 24. “I didn’t let go, and was dragged from the motorcycle through the whole street.”

“At some point, I let go of the violin, because I couldn’t [hold on] anymore.”

Arteaga says he then pleaded with the officer to return his broken violin to him. Another officer handed it back to him.

“I hugged him and ran away with the violin.”

A musical protest

Venezuela has been in a state of widespread unrest since March 29, when the country’s Supreme Court dissolved parliament and transferred all legislative powers to itself. Doing away with the opposition-controlled legislative branch would have left the remaining two branches of Venezuelan government controlled by President Nicolas Maduro’s ruling United Socialist Party. The opposition was outraged and called the move a coup.

00:45 - Source: CNN
Man's musical protest in Venezuela

Though the decision was reversed three days later, protests continued across the country, which is in the grip of severe food shortages and an economic crisis.

The protests have at times turned violent.

It was in the midst of one such protest earlier this month, as smoke billowed through the air and tear gas canisters hit the pavement, that the sound of Arteaga’s violin broke through the racket.

Wearing a helmet painted with his country’s flag, the 23-year-old drew a bow over the strings as he played the Venezuelan national anthem.

Iván Ernesto Reyes‏, a video journalist for Efecto Cocuyo, a Venezuelan independent media outlet, captured the moment on video and posted it on Twitter. And soon after, it was seen around the world.

“Today I witnessed a true example of magical realism,” Reyes tweeted.

Desolate but not defeated

On Wednesday, a more discouraging video emerged.

It showed Arteaga with his broken violin, crying.

It soon spawned a hashtag #UnViolinParaElPana, or “a violin for the buddy.”

But by Thursday, he hadn’t received a new violin or donations to pay for one, he tweeted.

But he is not defeated.

“I was injured on my leg, but I’m well,” Arteaga says in the video.

He then signs off: “Let’s go forward, Venezuela! All for peace in our country.”

Natalie Gallón and Stefano Pozzebo contributed to this report