October 20, 2006

Caribbean Jihad

Radical leftist British MP Puzzled Over Caribbean’s Links to Islamic-Inspired Terrorism

Diane Abbott never considers that her own hate speech and support of anything-goes multiculturalism is part of the problem

By David Paulin

Diane Abbott, a long-time member of the British Labor Party’s radical fringe, is well known for her anti-Semitic rhetoric, racially tinged identity politics, and venomous diatribes against Tony Blair and George Bush. Invariably, the British-born daughter of Jamaican immigrants can be counted on to view the world through a prism of race and post-colonial grievances. She contends terrorism has two “root causes”: America and Israel.

Now the controversial Member of Parliament has gone on record as acknowledging the existence of a strange trend: A number of young British men who are angry, black, and have Caribbean origins have been converting to Islam – and taking up jihad-inspired terrorism.

Abbott, 53, in a little-known
newspaper column she writes for a Jamaican newspaper, The Observer, admitted to being flummoxed at what’s causing the trend. She never considered it might have something to do with her own hate speech.

Abbott’s column described a number of terror plots and attacks with Caribbean ties that occurred after the Sept. 11 attacks five years ago. She echoed much of what was published here several weeks earlier.

In addition, Abbott noted the Caribbean emerged in mid-August in yet another jihad-inspired plot. This was the aborted suicide-bomb plot targeting as many as 10 trans-Atlantic airliners, possibly over U.S. cities, by detonating explosive chemicals hidden in carry-on bags. British authorities arrested 25 suspects, including some with Caribbean origins. In the plot’s aftermath, airline flights were disrupted worldwide.

Abbott’s column is noteworthy because it’s apparently the first time a prominent official has publicly endorsed the notion that several terror plots with Caribbean links represent more than an odd string of coincidences.

They are, Abbott contends, an ongoing trend.

Caribbean Terror Links

In the aborted plot targeting airliners, most of the alleged plotters were young British-born Muslims of Pakistani origin. However, Abbott noted, a “few Muslim converts of Caribbean origin have popped up in key roles.”

She mentioned
Brian Young, 28, a former Rastafarian who adopted the name Umar Islam three years ago on becoming a Muslim. A bus inspector, he was married to a young Muslim woman with whom he recently had a child. The British press appears to have reported no additional information about him, perhaps because of Britain’s rules limiting pre-trial coverage.

“Six of the people arrested live in my community in Hackney,” noted Abbott, a graduate of Cambridge University. In 1987 she became the
first black woman elected to Parliament.

Young men of Middle Eastern origin, to be sure, are bound to figure overwhelmingly into future Islamic-inspired terror plots, as they have in those plots with Caribbean links. But Abbott nevertheless observed that, “even though they may only be a handful, I will not be surprised to see other young men of Caribbean origin involved” in Islamic-inspired plots.

Why are such men drawn to jihad?

Abbott drew a blank on that, saying only, “These young men obviously need something to believe in. And radical Islam gives them this.”

She overlooked an obvious factor: They may be influenced by the hate-filled rhetoric she and like-minded politicians, intellectuals, and academics regularly spout in Britain and the Caribbean.

To be sure, that possibility was discussed in the article published here, “
The Caribbean: A Playground for Jihad?” The leftist elite and Islamists, it suggested, use some of the same talking points, revolving around dark conspiracy theories and loathsome broadsides against America, Israel, and even Western culture.

Moreover, Abbott and like-minded public figures in Britain have spread these ideas to Britain’s middle-class since the Sept. 11 attacks, according to political observers who cite a rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate-filled Israel bashing.

Besides describing most of the plots with Caribbean links mentioned here, Abbott in some cases provided extra details of her own. The Caribbean in varying degrees has emerged in at least six terror plots and attacks since Sept. 11, 2001.

Among the participants: at least 14 young Muslim converts with ties to the region. Curiously, Jamaica had ties to every plot but one – the home-grown
Miami-area terror plot that authorities broke up in June 2006. It involved six men of Haitian origin and one with ties to the Dominican Republic.

What makes these links especially strange is that the Caribbean is overwhelmingly Christian. Most if not all of the plotters were young black men. They had converted to Islam.

Besides the plot targeting trans-Atlantic jets, others with Caribbean links included:

*The foiled
plot in Canada involving 17 alleged terror plotters, including one from Trinidad and another with Jamaican origins. The other suspects had Middle Eastern origins.

*The attempted “shoe bomber” attack by
Richard Reid aboard an American Airlines jet bound from Paris to Miami in December 2001. Richard Reid was the British-born son of a Jamaican father and British mother.

*The Washington-area
sniper killings in October 2002 involving Jamaican-born Lee Boyd Mavo, then 17, along with his 41-year-old partner, John Allen Muhammad who had lived in the Caribbean. Abbott neglected to mention this plot.

*The London
suicide bomb attacks on July 7, 2005 by three British-born men of Pakistani descent along with Jamaica-born Germaine Lindsay, a 19-year-old Muslim covert. Lindsay killed 25 subway riders, making him the deadliest bomber. The attacks killed 52 commuters and injured more than 700.

Lindsay may have fallen under the spell of one of London’s notorious hate preachers with Jamaican origins:
Sheik Abdullah el-Faisal. His sermons, Abbott related, also may have influenced Reid along with two other would-be jihadis: Zacarias Moussaoui, a Frenchman of Moroccan origin; and Earnest James Ujaama, an American imprisoned for providing support to Afghanistan’s Taliban.

Abbott and Jihad

In the plot targeting trans-Atlantic airliners, British authorities moved in after detecting some members making “martyrdom videos.” They had been monitoring the group with phone taps and listening devices. On the videos, the suspects complained of a “war against Muslims” in Iraq and Afghanistan. They sought revenge against the United States and its “accomplices” – Britain and the Jews, related a lengthy article in
The New York Times.

Such bizarre accusations, of course, reveal much about the pathologies animating the Muslim world – not to mention those who migrate from it to Western Europe. Yet such views also are consistent with those promoted by Abbott and her intellectual soul mates.

Consider some of Abbott’s past statements:

*On the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq: “The war aims are above all to
secure Iraq’s oil for the US oil companies that put George W. Bush in the White House.”

*On Israel’s recent invasion of Lebanon: “I have no doubt that what Israel is doing in Lebanon is a war crime” that killed “innocent women and children,” she told a massive
anti-war rally in London as protesters chanted, “We are Hezbollah!”

*On the “root causes” of terrorism: “There are no
excuses for terrorism but there is a political context. Politicians have to acknowledge that British and American foreign policy in relation to Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East, have (sic) embittered Muslims around the world.”

Anti-Western loathing, to be sure, often animates such ideas among the leftist elite in Britain and America. Among Britain’s middle-class, moreover, such attitudes have grown far more socially acceptable since 9/11, according to British author Melanie Phillips. She blamed Britain’s leftist elite – leftist politicians, liberal newspapers, the BBC – for serving as “an all-too willing conduit for anti-Jewish and anti-Israel poison and propaganda.”

Phillips, in
an essay about this trend, recalled participating in a BBC panel discussion in which Abbott made anti-Semitic remarks and the audience’s visceral anti-Israel hostility was palpable and unnerving.

She was especially shocked at the reaction she evoked among the audience when she described Israel as a democracy.

“They laughed.”

Like Phillips, I’ve seen Abbott up close. When I lived in Jamaica nearly two years, I watched her deliver an impassioned speech at the University of the West Indies, where she whipped up hundreds of Kingston’s well-dressed elite. She evoked thunderous applause when she declared George Bush’s impending war in Iraq was about only one thing: oil.

The admiring crowd welcomed her as a returning local girl who had done spectacularly well in the wider world, but who had not forgotten her roots.

That Abbott got such star treatment was to be expected. Many of Jamaica’s elites embrace the same anti-American and anti-Western sentiments as she does. Most ordinary Jamaicans, on the other hand, reject such sentiments. Their main concerns: good jobs and crime-free streets.

Both are in short supply after years of misrule by the leftist government. Jamaica’s political leaders, for example, have
never gotten serious about dismantling violent “garrison communities” where “dons” control the drug trade and other illegal activities – all while delivering votes to politicians.

Could young men saturated with the sort of hate talk spouted by Abbott and others be predisposed to embrace similar idea – albeit in an Islamic context?

Abbott fails to consider this. But she nonetheless makes some interesting points.

Islam and Racial Politics

Attempting to explain radical Islam’s attraction for angry young black men with Caribbean origins, Abbott's column noted that a generation ago they might have become non-violent Black Muslims or joined black-led churches or Pan-African movements. Now, inexplicably, they’re drawn to a strain of Islam preaching holy war and suicide bombings, one that is “quite different from the US Black Muslims or the Muslim faith as practiced in parts of Africa.”

Obviously, such a conversion is preceded by an identity crisis. What triggers it? Again, Abbott overlooks the obvious: It’s the multiculturalism she champions – all while simultaneously vilifying Western culture and British history.

In Britain and Jamaica, such notions have gained increasing credibility, thanks to leftist influence in academia and the news media. In Jamaica, slavery and colonialism are among the
most popular subjects at the University of the West Indies, which influences the region's intellectual thought.

Plunged into multicultural Britain, it’s no wonder some young black man suffer identity problems. They can’t very well feel “British” – not when they’ve been taught only the negative aspects of Britain’s history, without a mention of its pivotal role in creating and spreading liberal democracy and in abolishing the worldwide slave trade.

In addition, such men may feel uncomfortable in defining themselves by a particular ethnic or racial group. Abbott along these lines has urged that
“people of color” come together, claiming this is an antidote to Britain’s racism and urban unrest, including rioting in Birmingham between Jamaican and Pakistani immigrants; not to mention the tendency of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs to assert “their separate political identities.”

For young men bewildered by all this, Islam fills the void. It offers identify, belonging.

Radical mosques may appeal to them in another way. The grievances preached there – revolving around hatred of America, Israel, and Western culture – are things they’ve heard before. This makes the new religion familiar, and relevant.

No wonder some are attracted not to the church – but the mosque.

Abbott overlooks something else. Lindsay, Reid, and Malvo all had
unstable upbringings – a factor that could have contributed to low self-esteem and identity problems. They’re like many young men in Jamaica, where single women head nearly 50 percent of households, and where most births are out-of-wedlock.

Some Jamaicans have observed that the country’s heavy reliance on remittances forces mothers and fathers to work abroad, leaving youngsters with little adult supervision.

How surprising that Abbott fails to recognize this given that she is herself a single-mother. In fact, British conversvatives have criticized her for this, believing that single-parent households are a factor in Britain’s social problems.

Backlash Against Multiculturalism

In the aftermath of London’s suicide bombings, Abbott has fought a growing backlash against years of Britain’s anything-goes policies on immigration, asylum seekers, and multiculturalism. She derides those who disagree with her as being

“The British media love to play up the Caribbean origins of any terrorist suspects, even though they may be British citizens. Associating black men with terrorist violence is obviously irresistible,” Abbott noted in The Observer.

The Observer, incidentally, often serves as a vehicle for
anti-American and anti-Semitic rants, along with the occasional piece suggesting America got what it deserved on 9/11. Ironically, it’s published by Gordon “Butch” Stewart, who heads the Caribbean’s iconic Sandals and Beaches resorts that depend on American tourism.

In London, Abbott also has condemned British newspapers for frightening readers with front-page stories featuring “big pictures of menacing, non-white men in beards.”

This carries “the subliminal message that all Muslims are a threat,”
she argued.

However, opinion polls – not racism – probably play a bigger factor in the public’s jitters. In the London Times recently, one
poll revealed some discomfiting statistics: One in ten British Muslims regard London’s suicide bombers as “martyrs,” while 16 percent (150,000 adults) condemned the attacks but felt “the cause was right.”

Obviously, many British are worried about their country and its future; not to mention their personal safety. But at an international workshop held in Ghana last March, Abbott was preoccupied with two of her favorite concerns: Slavery and colonialism.

Abbott also spoke on a third favorite subject: herself – or, specifically,
her emergence from “colonial influences and slavery to become the first and only black female British parliamentarian." It’s a fact she likes to trumpet every chance she gets.

Africa First, a Minnesota company promoting "global dialogue," sponsored the workshop along with Ghana’s government and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, (UNESCO). “All the citizens of the world were invited,” Africa First proclaimed of the “International Workshop of History, Slavery, Religion, Culture, Art and Music.”

Conference goers rolled up their sleeves and addressed a number of
complex issues, including:

“To investigate whether political instability particularly in Africa and Latin America, and illiteracy, poverty, health disparities, diseases, drug abuse and violence in the Caribbean, America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, especially within minority communities, are the direct results of colonization and slavery, and if so what can and should be done to correct them.”

Conference leaders even managed to work Jews into their discussions by addressing this issue:

“To investigate whether the deliberate looting, killings, raping, kidnappings and trading of Africans, America Indians, Asians, Aboriginal people of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Island as slaves and human commodities by Europeans, can be compared to the atrocities committed against Jews in Nazi German camps in Europe, and if so, whether their descendants are entitled to reparations?”

Apparently, conference leaders have not yet published their conclusions. How might Abbott have voted?

In London, meanwhile, some of Britain’s Muslims demanded that Pope Benedict XVI be
beheaded in yet another raucous demonstration to avenge the latest “insult” to Islam. Meeting with top British officials, some Muslim leaders demanded sharia law for Britain’s Muslims.

Abbott has faced issues of a more personal nature. They included awkward questions about revelations that she had sent her son to a fancy
private school costing more than $18,500 annually. Members of the left and right called her a hypocrite – and for good reason. In the past, she’d criticized other politicians for the same thing.

Abbott also faced criticism regarding
her earnings outside Parliament over the past year – a whopping $159,000 for articles, speeches, and television appearances.

All in all, Abbott has done well for herself in Britain, despite all the country’s faults, unsavory history, and problems she has encountered as a minority.

As a single-mother, it’s doubtful she could have done as well in Jamaica, certainly not as the daughter of working-class parents: Her father was a welder, her mother a nurse. In Jamaica, people in such fields struggle to make ends meet.

One thing about Abbott is certain: She’ll be a rich woman when her reparations arrive. What’s less certain is whether she’ll want to live in the “Londonistan” she helped create.

October 3, 2006

Hugo Strikes Out – For Now

Hugo Chávez's U.N. rant revealed that his anti-Americanism is really about one thing: Hugo Chávez .

Hugo Chávez defines and empowers himself with his anti-Americanism – the foundations of which he laid during the Clinton administration’s soft-line approach toward him. Chávez knows less about America than he thinks, however. His controversial U.N. speech revealed some of the Venezuelan leader's weaknesses and contradictions. It also underscored the threat posed by his oil-rich regime.

By David Paulin

In Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela it’s a crime to “insult” the president. The offense became part of the penal code in March and mandates prison terms of up to two and one-half years.

How fortunate for Venezuela’s president that no such laws exist in America, and that President Bush never fomented the kind of political violence and polarization here that Chávez has introduced into his country.

Otherwise, imagine one scenario that might have played out: Federal marshals escort Chávez to a detention facility for the “insult” President Bush suffers after Chávez brands him a “devil” while waving around a Noam Chomsky book on America’s alleged malevolence. Across the country, meanwhile, gangs of Republican toughs shoot up and trash Venezuela’s Citgo outlets. Wielding baseball bats, others chase down U.N. delegates to avenge their applause and smirks over Chávez ’s rant to the U.N. General Assembly.

Ah, yes, wishful thinking, but there is a point here. In Venezuela, the left-wing populist has unleashed similar sorts of political violence by demonizing political opponents and polarizing Venezuelans along class and political lines.

Clinton’s Chávez Policy

Chávez pretended his anti-American rants in the U.N. and Harlem were about the “devil” Bush. In fact, Chávez's most outrageous conduct started during the Clinton administration. Its point man in Caracas, U.S. Ambassador John Maisto, peddled a soft-line approach on Chávez , viewing him as a late-blooming democratic reformer; no matter that the former Army lieutenant colonel, just six years earlier, orchestrated a bloody military coup and had a long history of radicalism.

A career diplomat with an academic bent, Maisto explained away Chávez’s anti-Americanism by saying, “Watch what Chávez does, not what he says.” The so-called “Maisto Doctrine” encapsulated Clinton-era wishful thinking about Chávez , according to Paul Crespo, a military attaché in Caracas during Maisto’s tenure. Chávez , meanwhile, was a man of his word. He quickly closed ranks with Cuba; sought alliances with Middle Eastern dictators; and expressed solidarity with imprisoned Venezuela-born terrorist “Carlos the Jackal.” In addition, he expressed veiled sympathy for Colombia’s Marxist narco-guerillas; it's also likely that he clandestinely provided them material support.

It was not until Chávez denounced the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan as a "slaughter of innocents" that the Bush administration undertook a belated post-9/11 reassessment of Chavez and soft-line "Maisto Doctorine" that astute observers had harshly criticized.

Venezuela’s law protecting El Presidente from “insults” is one of many examples of how democratic safeguards and respect for human rights and press freedoms spiraled downward early into Chávez ’s nearly eight-year rule. Many of the abuses occurred under Maisto’s watch, and of course while “Monicagate” distracted the Clinton White House and Congress. In the last few years, Chávez has used the foundation he laid during those years to undertake a huge arms build-up and meddle in regional politics. At home, he has veered into anti-Semitic rhetoric and harassment of Venezuela’s Jewish community. To some political scientists, the left-wing populist exemplifies a new form of democracy: “elected autocrat.”

Before Chávez's New York rant, most reasonably informed Americans knew about his vaunted “social programs,” not to mention his frequent and outlandish accusations: Washington wanted to invade Venezuela, kill him, and had played a role in a failed coup against him. The funny thing about such unsupported allegations is that they often had a ring of credibility, thanks to how the mainstream media reported them – for the most part soberly written up and juxtaposed against vehement U.S. denials.

Chávez : Warts and all

To truly understand what the telegenic Chávez is all about, he must be seen up close, unedited, warts and all. Television news certainly has its shortcomings. But in respect to Chávez's U.N. rant, give it credit for showing that the Emperor had no clothes. Many Venezuelans figured that out soon after Chávez ’s landslide presidential victory in December, 1998.

Months into Chávez's term, many Venezuelans got their fill of him during the regular television appearances he started making. In unscripted monologues similar to his U.N. rant, Chávez rambled on for hours, sprinkling his running commentary with personal anecdotes and baseball metaphors; and he regularly demonized political opponents.

Venezuelans eventually complained they were missing their favorite “telenovelas.”

After his New York performance, Americans at long last got a clear picture of Chávez ’s irrational and toxic anti-Americanism. They also sensed his narcissism -- the way adoring U.N. delegates obviously nourished and energized his ego.

Now, all those outraged Americans boycotting Citgo outlets know what Venezuelans have been suffering. Most Venezuelans reject Chávez ’s anti-Americanism and confrontational foreign policy.

Broken Promises

Nearly eight years ago, Chávez , a political outsider, won a landslide election by pledging to end rampant corruption and declining living standards. Voters, however, saw what they wanted to see in Chávez, who promised different things to different constituencies. To slum dwellers he was a rabble-rousing populist offering paternalistic handouts. Middle-class audiences saw him as a reasonable reformer. To them Chávez spoke about a Venezuelan version of a “Third Way” between socialism and capitalism.

Under Chávez , however, corruption, crime, and poverty all have worsened, according to the most credible accounts and statistics. And that’s despite record oil prices that have traditionally lifted the oil-dependent economy. The majority of 25 million Venezuelans are poor.

Chávez nevertheless wins elections and referendums with slim majorities – thanks to his populist programs, soaring oil prices, and fact that he controls the levers of power under a rewritten constitution. Political opponents settle on some choice descriptions of him: vulgar, irrational, a bully, a charming narcissist.

Rejects American Disaster Relief

One year after his election, Chávez demonstrated his willingness to put prickly nationalism and anti-Americanism above the needs of ordinary Venezuelans. In December 1999, he brusquely turned away U.S. Navy vessels steaming toward Venezuela to render assistance to victims of one of the worst natural disasters in Latin America's recent history. Heavy rains had triggered massive mudslides in and around Caracas, the capital, killing tens of thousands of people, leaving untold numbers homeless, and burying roads and villages.

A top Venezuelan military official had signed off on a major U.S. relief effort, prompting a Navy ship to start steaming toward Venezuela with hundreds of military engineers and heavy equipment. But Chávez , during a shoot-from-the-hip news conference, startled U.S. officials by rejecting the aid.

Chávez officials, meanwhile, also downplayed or ignored search and rescue operations being undertaken by U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopters that arrived shortly after the disaster. I described this early manifestation of Chávez's anti-Americanism for The Washington Times, while a foreign correspondent based in Caracas.

The thin-skinned Chávez and other officials also eagerly sought out malevolence in any U.S. action or comment. Then they would bluster on about Venezuela being a “sovereign” country and how bilateral relations should be guided by “mutual respect.”

Chávez , in contrast, welcomed suggestions and help from his friend and mentor, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Cuba’s security services and advisors began playing significant roles in Chávez ’s government, which must have heartened top Chávez officials such as Alí Rodríguez , Venezuela’s oil minister, and later head of the state oil company, and then foreign minister. A lawyer and former leftist Congressman with an intellectual demeanor, Rodríguez fought in a failed 1960's Cuba-backed insurgency against Venezuela’s government, then a democratic beacon in Latin America.

Oil Diplomacy

To the international left, however, Chávez can do no wrong. The day after his U.N. speech, for instance, Chávez got a hero’s welcome at a Baptist church he visited with activist-actor Danny Glover. The event in Harlem focused on yet another initiative in which Venezuela is selling discounted home-heating oil to low-income people in the Northeast and Western Europe.

There is a huge irony in these initiatives. In his first presidential campaign, Chávez promised to put Venezuela’s oil wealth to work for poor Venezuelans, contending previous governments had failed to do so. He has indeed instituted a number of social programs, but poverty experts contend the patchwork of efforts fails to qualify as a serious poverty-reduction program. They nevertheless provide Chávez with plenty of political mileage.

In addition, Chávez has approved sweetheart deals to oil customers in Latin America and the Caribbean – all calculated to give Venezuela influence in the region. Cuba is the most outrageous example; in a barter arrangement it provides Venezuela with doctors and athletic trainers in exchange for oil.

Chávez's Harlem cheerleaders applaud such initiatives, believing they shame corrupt Western capitalism. They overlook the fact that Chávez is giving away the patrimony of his own impoverished country. Ultimately, these programs reveal Chávez to be as venal as previous Venezuelan leaders.

Presumably, Chávez was riding high over how U.N. delegates applauded him, followed by his big Harlem welcome. What came next surely surprised him: consumer disgust with Citgo, followed by 7-Eleven’s announcement that it was dumping the brand (citing Chávez ’s past conduct as a factor in what nevertheless was mostly a marketing decision).

And Chávez must have been stung by those unusual public rebukes by two influential Bush-hating Democrats: Charles Rangel of New York and Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco. Chávez was an “everyday thug,” Pelosi fumed. Surely Chávez was taken aback. After all, didn’t his comments echo the talking points of many Bush-hating Democrats – not to mention the great intellectual Noam Chomsky?

One of Chávez’s weaknesses is that he moves by all accounts in an insular world of fellow America haters, both in Venezuela and on his frequent road trips. As an elected autocrat, moreover, he faces far fewer checks and balances, nor vexing issues such as accountability (to the degree that this concept is truly understood in Latin America). So he can think and behave as he wants.

Chávez’s hubris may have hurt him, too. His amazing powers to read and persuade audiences have never let him down in the past.

In 1992, for instance, Chávez convinced a group of soldiers to join him in a bloody, disorganized, and failed military coup (although Chávez, to be sure, was apparently never in the thick of the fighting in which scores of civilians and soldiers died).

Widely condemned, the coup failed to inspire a civilian uprising or wider rebellion among the military. Chávez spent two years in jail. In winning the presidency, he convinced Venezuelans that he had traded the ballet for the bullet.

One thing the mainstream media oversimplifies about Chávez is to call him a hero to the poor. True, he draws most of his support from the poor, but not all of the poor support him. Moreover, this overlooks the fact that many middle class and even wealthy Venezuelans voted for him in 1998; they, too, were fed up with the nation’s two mainstream political parties, which were widely blamed for ruling irresponsibly and in their own self-interest.

Indeed, I meet a number of well-to-do, intelligent, and decent Venezuelans who saw Chávez as a reformer who would restore pride to Venezuela. During exit poll interviews I did in the wealthy La Floresta section of Caracas, I was surprised that most voters said they'd voted for Chavez. Like poor Venezuelans, they wanted sweeping changes. Ambassador Maisto, to be sure, wasn’t the only educated person who got suckered.

A handful of wealthy Venezuelans, of course, has remained on Chávez’s bandwagon, engaging in the sort of corruption that traditionally benefited politically connected business people who enjoyed no-bid government contracts and sweetheart deals. Most, however, quickly saw Chávez for the irresponsible and dangerous demagogue that he is.

Now Americans have seen Chávez for what he is, and they are registering their opinions by passing up Citgo outlets.

Good riddance.