Welcome to Jamaica

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Well I always knew Jamaica was pretty gully, but the recent news reports confrm it is worse than I once thought. So the basic gist of it is a drug lord named Christopher Coke (too good to make up) has virtually taken Kingston hostage. Rather than be extradited for his crimes, he chose to rise up have the streets baracaded and set the police station on fire.

BRAVO SIR !

Read the rest for a picture of the Coke King and the real news story.

Mr.Coke

It’s Wednesday night, and reggae music is blaring in Tivoli Gardens, the inner city neighborhood known for dangerous streets that an accused drug baron now keeps clean and safe.

“The president is here!” the proud disc jockey declared.

By “president,” he meant Christopher “Dudus” Coke, a man the U.S. Department of Justice considers one of the most dangerous narcotics kingpins in the world.

And he meant a man whose case threatens to topple Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who is under fire for his loyalty to the alleged drug baron.

Thanks to ties to the ruling Labor Party that run deep and strong, Coke is still attending weekly dance parties in the western Kingston neighborhood he controls. He’s not in New York, facing the U.S. court that seeks to try him on charges of running cocaine, marijuana and weapons up the eastern seaboard.

After admitting that he played a role in hiring a Los Angeles law firm to lobby the U.S. government on Coke’s behalf, Golding hunkered down with advisors late Friday as cries for his resignation grew louder.

Coke “is the most powerful criminal in Jamaica,” said Desmond Richards, editor of the Sunday Herald newspaper, which has investigated Coke’s government construction contracts. “He is like a vampire — these people do not do well under light.”

Coke, 41, is believed to be the leader of the Shower Posse, one of the most notorious criminal gangs in the hemisphere. He was indicted by a New York grand jury last year on conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana and traffic weapons. But Golding cited illegally obtained wiretap evidence and other irregularities and refused to extradite him.

At the center of the widening controversy that includes a flap over the hiring of the Manatt, Phelps & Phillips lobbying firm is a 41-year-old food importer and construction contractor whose influence in his neighborhood is so strong that children must be off street corners by 8 p.m. Men must work, and thieves look elsewhere to pilfer pockets.

“You could describe it as a welfare system: They provide resources and operate what you could call a second tier justice system,” Richards said. “There is no stealing, no rape.”

Experts describe Coke as Jamaica’s answer to Pablo Escobar, the late Colombian drug trafficker whose benevolence in the community afforded him absolute control — and respect.

“I am not going to lie: people go to school because of him. People who need clothes go to him, so do old people,” said Claudette White, who spent a recent morning at a local produce market, which Coke is credited for keeping safe. “He gave a start to the people who run the food and soda carts. Most people here depend on him for something.”

FAMILIY TIES

Coke is the son of Lester Lloyd Coke — aka “Jim Brown” — who was also one of Jamaica’s gang leaders, called “dons” here. Accused of murder and drug trafficking in Miami, the elder Coke died in a suspicious fire in 1992 while awaiting extradition.

When Christopher Coke’s brother Mark was murdered that year, gang warfare broke out that left at least a dozen people dead in a single month.

Coke’s attorney dismisses his client’s reputation as pure lore, and said the flimsy case against him is politically motivated.

“Christopher Coke is someone who is fair, eschews the use of violence and whose main enterprise is economic development in the inner city and the development of youth through economic activities,” said lawyer Tom Tavares-Finson, a Labor Party legislator.

“You cannot impose a curfew with a gun. If you could impose peace and security through the use of force, wouldn’t the state be able to do it?”

Tivoli Gardens is a longtime stronghold of the Jamaican Labor Party; Golding is its representative in parliament.

The Jamaican government maintains that the wiretaps the U.S. government used to record Coke’s Kingston cellphone were illegal, and the Minister of Justice declined to sign an extradition order for Coke. Facing intense criticism, she asked the court whether she was within her rights to refuse. The motion is pending.

The prime minister’s office did not return calls seeking an interview. Minister of Information Daryl Vaz late Friday denied rumors that Golding had resigned.

The Drug Enforcement Administration referred questions about the Coke case to U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Yusill Scribner, who did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

“We would like to once again reiterate our position that all evidence collected by the United States in the indictment of Christopher `Dudus’ Coke was acquired in a manner consistent with existing international agreements between our two countries, and that the extradition request was properly prepared and submitted,” State Department spokesman Charles Luoma-Overstreet said in a statement.

But most experts agree that the government is unlikely to let Coke go. He knows too much.

“They are worried about what he would say,” said David Rowe, an adjunct law professor at the University of Miami School of Law who has represented Jamaican dons. “They know that he could implicate a number of Jamaican government ministers.”

THE GANGS

Criminal ties to Jamaican politics are not new. Gangs were created in the 1970s, when political parties here armed groups of supporters in a quest to eliminate rivals.

“The dons’ service to the party was that they could deliver votes,” said John Rapley, president of the Caribbean Policy Research Institute, a Kingston think tank.

But to deliver votes,they had to deliver services. And for that, they needed money. They soon became the Caribbean middlemen for Colombian drug cartels.

In the ’70s, the dons controlled the gangs.

“The tail is wagging the dog now,” Rapley said.

Even if the government wanted to get rid of them, Rapley said, many people believe it couldn’t.

“Our intelligence was, and it probably still is, that the gangs in Tivoli Gardens had a huge arsenal of weapons,” said security consultant Mark Shields, a former Scotland Yard investigator who became deputy commissioner of police here.

“There is a huge sensitivity to the fact that one of the largest civil confrontations in modern times with the police was in Tivoli Gardens.”

In 2001, police trying to raid Tivoli Gardens were met by sniper fire, which led to a three-day standoff that killed 26 people.

“Arresting Christopher Coke would require a major police and military operation,” said a U.S. law enforcement official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. “It would take hundreds of people.”

Tivoli Gardens residents say Coke keeps their neighborhood safe, and they like it that way.

“Jamaica is at a crossroads perhaps more than ever before, in where one road leads to restoration of law and order and the other road leads to narco-statehood,” said opposition lawmaker Peter Phillips, a former National Security minister.

“Right now, we have to say we are leaning toward narco-statehood, if we are not there already.”

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2 Responses to “Welcome to Jamaica”

  1. Corve Says:

    This scenario happens when you embrace criminals

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