GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File / Sergi Alexander
25 July 2017: The Puerto Rican duo behind the worldwide sexy smash Latin pop hit "Despacito" on Monday slammed Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro for "illegally" using their song to promote a controversial vote he is organizing.
"Illegally appropriating a song doesn't compare to the crimes you are committing and have committed in Venezuela," one of the two, Daddy Yankee, wrote on his Instagram feed, directly addressing Maduro.
The Venezuelan leader on Sunday co-opted "Despacito" -- a dance-friendly pop-and-rap number that has taken online streaming and video sites by storm -- in a broadcast on state TV to animate his supporters and add a luster of popularity to his politics.
Lyrics were altered to urge people to "vote" and ended with an exhortation to Venezuela to get behind an election he has called for next Sunday to choose a body to rewrite Venezuela's constitution.
That plan by Maduro has already been met with mass street protests, an unofficial plebiscite rejecting it, a nationwide strike and a warning by the US of economic sanctions if the vote goes ahead.
Daddy Yankee said Maduro's "dictatorial regime... is a joke for the entire world."
His co-singer on the hit, Luis Fonsi, issued a statement saying that "at no time was I consulted, nor did I authorize, the use or changes of the lyrics of 'Despacito' for political ends."
He added that, while online there were now various versions of the tune -- one remix of which features vocals by Justin Bieber -- "there has to be a limit."
The song, he said, wasn't brought out "to manipulate the will of a people that is yelling demands for freedom and a better future."
"Despacito," meaning "Slowly," has become the biggest Spanish-language global phenomenon since "Macarena" in 1996.
Last week record label Universal Music Latin Entertainment said "Despacito" in its original and remixed versions had reached 4.6 billion streams across platforms including YouTube and Spotify, making it the most streamed song of all time.
It is currently the third most viewed YouTube video with 2.7 billion views, behind "See You Again" by Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth and Psy's "Gangnam Style."
Maduro and his leftwing government have been strongly criticized by several big Latin American nations, including Mexico, Brazil and Argentina, for pushing on with the plan to change Venezuela's constitution.
The UN, EU and the Organization of American States have also called on Maduro to drop the initiative, fearing it could worsen Venezuela's political crisis, which in the past four months has left over 100 people dead.