Wynton Marsalis Cancels Venezuela Show Amid Tensions

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Wynton Marsalis performs live on stage during a concert at the Prague Proms 2013 jazz festival at the Municipal House on July 10, 2013 in Prague, Czech Republic.

American jazz legend Wynton Marsalis is canceling a concert in Venezuela at a time of rising tensions that are making it harder for U.S. citizens to travel to the South American country.

The New York-based trumpeter and composer was scheduled to perform Friday in Caracas alongside the Simon Bolivar Orchestra conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, as well as lead a series of workshops with the country's world-famous El Sistema network of youth ensembles, both of which are supported by Venezuela's socialist government.

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, which Marsalis leads, didn't explain why Caracas was a last-minute scratch from its 12-city South American tour. But in a statement, it said its presence right now in Venezuela could distract from El Sistema's well-deserved 40th anniversary celebration.

Wynton Marsalis in Cuba for Historic Jazz Concerts

Marsalis has long been an emissary for the American art form and in 2010 spent a week in Havana, Cuba, jamming with music students in the communist country.

But his planned trip to Venezuela couldn't have come at a worse time for relations between the two countries.

Last week, President Nicolas Maduro ordered the U.S. to sharply reduce the size of its Embassy and slapped a new visa requirement on Americans traveling to the South American country. The embattled president said he was taking the steps to protect the oil-rich nation from attempts by the U.S. to oust his socialist government from power. The U.S. has dismissed the claims as laughable and an attempt to distract attention from the country's deepening economic crisis.

The visa requirement has caught many Americans off-guard, with reports of travelers being turned away by airlines or upon arrival in Caracas. The Houston Astros said that one of its American scouts was among affected by the new rules.