As I posted yesterday, Jamaica’s in the middle of a drug war over drug lord Christopher “Dudus” Coke’s extradition.
The Washington Post reports on the country’s organized crime:
Coke, who allegedly assumed leadership of the “Shadow Posse” from his father, was accused in a U.S. indictment in August of heading an international trafficking ring that sells marijuana and crack cocaine in the New York area and elsewhere.
Coke, 41, is often described as a kind of godfather in Tivoli Gardens, a West Kingston slum, where he reportedly provides food and assistance to the poor. But some analysts say residents might follow him more out of fear than love.
John Rapley, president of the Caribbean Policy Research Institute, a think tank, said Coke’s case reflected how entwined Jamaica’s drug gangs have become with the nation’s political system. The alleged drug lord is believed to be close to members of the governing Labor Party, although not Prime Minister Bruce Golding himself, Rapley said.
Many Jamaicans believe that Coke “could bring down . . . members of the government and the opposition” if he pleads guilty and cooperates with U.S. justice officials, Rapley said. “So the stakes are very high for the politics of the country.”
The Financial Times has an editorial on the country’s ties to organized crime:
Tragedy in Tivoli (emphasis added):
The pitched battle between security forces and armed gangs in west Kingston, in which dozens have died, represents a damning indictment of the Jamaican government’s handling of the US request to extradite Christopher “Dudus” Coke for alleged drug crimes. The conflict lays bare the degree to which this community has become a law unto itself.
The credibility of Bruce Golding, prime minister, is in tatters. Diplomatic relations with the US have been severely strained by the months of delay in processing the extradition request. That foot-dragging also gave Mr Coke’s supporters ample time to organise themselves and to stockpile weapons.
The heart of the problem is an enduring failure of elected representatives to help the people who live in slums. The loyalty to Mr Coke and other “dons” in low-income communities such as Tivoli Gardens or Spanish Town stems from the gangs’ provision of welfare and security for those neglected by the political system. As other countries such as Mexico and Colombia have found, once drugs gangs usurp the state’s functions, reining them in is a dangerous and difficult task.
What is needed now is a definitive break by politicians of all parties from criminal gangs. The first step should be an unequivocal commitment to allow the security forces to deal with other gangs with the same determination they have shown in Tivoli Gardens.
The government must tackle the social breakdown that allows gang leaders to be seen as mentors. Despite Jamaica’s hard economic choices, this project cannot be ducked. Otherwise, success against any of the dons is no more than a personnel change at the top.
It may yet be that the pursuit of Mr Coke marks a turning point. But it will take strong leadership of a calibre not currently on display to achieve a breakthrough.
Meanwhile, Coke is still free.