Drug lord Christopher “Dudus” Coke, the son of one of Jamaica’s most influential gang leaders, is evading extradition to the US, and the country is in a drug war:
Jamaican security forces clashed with armed fighters in shantytowns in the capital, Kingston, for the fourth day on Wednesday, as authorities searched for alleged drug lord Christopher “Dudus” Coke. Officials said 44 civilians had been killed since fighting began last weekend.
Mr. Coke, 41 years old, remained at large, authorities said, as soldiers moved house to house searching for him in the Tivoli Gardens neighborhood of Kingston. The government said Wednesday that Mr. Coke may have fled the country, the Associated Press reported.
Mr. Coke is wanted in the U.S. on drug-trafficking charges. U.S. officials say he leads a gang known as “Shower Posse,” an international criminal organization with ties in Jamaica and the U.S.
Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding originally balked at an extradition request from the U.S., but changed his mind last week and issued a warrant for Mr. Coke’s arrest. Violence erupted soon after that. Authorities say Mr. Coke, a powerful figure among Jamaica’s poor known locally as a “don,” prepared for an attempt to capture him by arming citizens of Tivoli Gardens and urging them to fight.
Jamaica bans firearms, and the unprotected people have turned to gangs for “protection”
Much of the problem, authorities say, lies with the long-festering issue of Jamaica’s criminal organizations, many centered in Kingston’s shantytowns, and the rise of powerful “dons.” In exchange for the community’s protection of their illicit activity, these figures offer services that the government at times doesn’t, such as welfare and local justice. Mr. Coke is among the most powerful of these men.
The Jamaican government has shied away from attacking these figures in the past—particularly the government of Mr. Golding, whose district lies in Mr. Coke’s stronghold. In past altercations in Trench Town, drug bosses have armed neighborhoods with weapons and used women and children as human shields.
Unattended, the problem has grown—a similar predicament faced by countries like Mexico, which is facing rising levels of drug-related violence after having let the problem worsen for decades.
“Civil society in Jamaica has risen up and said ‘enough is enough,’” says Mark Thomas of Jamaica Trade and Invest, a group that promotes foreign investment in the country.