Having just returned from a trip to Jamaica on April 20th, I am quite alarmed by the escalating violence that has resulted in a state of emergency being declared there. I spent time in Kingston and surrounding areas in addition to the area of Port Antonio during my recent visit as a guest of the Jamaica Tourist Board. At the time, I did read up on the efforts to extradite Christopher “Dudus” Coke as I always make it a habit to brief myself on the current political map in any country that I visit. While I did see that it had the potential to blow up into full scale riots, Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding had taken a strong stance against the U.S. request to extradite Christopher “Dudus” Coke, and his position did not seem at all flexible. I surmised that nothing untoward would develop over this incident during my visit. It turns out that I was right, but just barely.
Golding’s Decision to Honor Dudus Extradition
Almost exactly one month after my return home to the United States from Jamaica, Prime Minister Golding has changed his position and called for the arrest of Christopher “Dudus” Coke. This is quite a turnabout considering that Christopher Coke is a major supporter of Golding and the ruling Labour Party which Golding represents. Coke is the de facto boss of an area of West Kingston known as Tivoli Gardens. Residents there have vowed to protect “Dudus” saying that he provides protection for the residents of that neighborhood.
Dudus Supporters Massing Behind Barricades in Kingston
Toward that end, the Jamaica Gleaner reports, armed men have attacked several police stations in Kingston with automatic weapons. Readers will note that Christopher “Dudus” Coke is a gun runner as well as a drug trafficker according to published allegations. The Gleaner reports that busloads of men are being delivered to the barricades erected by Dudus’ supporters in West Kingston. The aggression of the Tivoli Gardens gang may have caught the Jamaican Government by surprise to some extent as only now, says The Gleaner, are large numbers of Jamaica Defence Force troops being moved in to support law enforcement efforts. Armored vehicles were spotted on their way to the area.
Kingston Homes Built Like Fortresses
During my visit week-long visit to Kingston, I stayed one night at a place called The Gardens on Liguanea Avenue in Kingston. That’s perhaps three miles from Tivoli Gardens. I saw no signs of unrest at the time, because there was no indication that the Jamaican government would bow to pressure to extradite Christopher “Dudus” Coke to the United States. I did take note, however, that almost every private residence, including The Gardens was surrounded by thick walls, which looked to be built of cement blocks coated with cement. These walls ranged in height from perhaps four or five feet to as high as perhaps ten feet, not including the ironwork spikes or barbed wire that often topped them. It appeared as if residents felt the need to fortify their homes. That, combined with the newly erected sandbag and concertina wire barricades will make a house to house pacification of Tivoli Gardens, should it come to that, a difficult undertaking for law enforcement.
Kingston, Jamaica Police Heavily Armed
I also noted that some Kingston police patrols routinely carried assault rifles. One incident made it rather difficult to miss this particular fact. While standing in Hope Gardens, a public park in Kingston, Jamaica, with my camera, looking every bit like a typical American tourist, a police patrol car pulled up right in front of me. The car contained three officers. The driver called out a friendly greeting, asked me if I was enjoying my stay, and advised me to “Stay safe.” As he did so, it was hard to miss the officer in the back seat casually resting the barrel of an assault rifle on the glass of the half-open car window. The barrel was pointed directly at my head from a distance of about eight feet away.
Christopher “Dudus” Coke’s End-game?
For the rioters to boldly attack multiple police stations in a sustained fashion and even succeed in killing a number of police officers, as reported by the Jamaica Observer, they must be quite heavily armed. As there is undoubtedly, sufficient firepower in the police stations to easily squelch any ordinary trouble. If Coke is indeed a gun trafficker and is supplying these weapons to his supporters at this time, it appears clear that he has no intention of turning himself in to the police as the Jamaican government has requested. It is hard to see what his end-game might be, however. Golding is all but assured of losing his position, his successor certainly will not be able to support Coke after the current turmoil, and the United States is not about to give up on the extradition, despite the lobbying efforts of a US firm hired by Golding’s Labour Party to intervene with US authorities on Christopher “Dudus” Coke’s behalf.
Will Dudus Surrender, Flee, or Die?
At best, the chaos might give Dudus a chance to escape off-island, perhaps to Colombia. Jamaica is a small island, though. It seems unlikely that a person of his renown and stature could hide out on Jamaica for very long if he is being actively sought. Although, the island is rugged and an individual willing to forego comforts might find refuge in the mountains, it would seem quite contrary to the character of someone who is used to living with as high a profile as Christopher “Dudus” Coke. He would certainly be recognized anywhere he would go in Jamaica. If he does not surrender and does not manage to flee the island, there very well may be an outcome that results in a situation worse than extradition for Dudus.
Instability Could Worsen
There is some risk that the current turmoil, if allowed to foment, could lead to more widespread instability although it seems to be largely confined to the Southeast of Jamaica at this point, with incidents in Kingston, Spanish Town, and St. Catherine according to a report on Go-Jamaica.com. With large numbers of troops moving in, it seems likely that it is a matter of days, at most, before decisive action is taken to quell the violence.
The Beginnings of Anti-American Sentiment in Jamaica?
What remains to be seen is whether there will be a faction of Jamaicans who blame America for causing this trouble by requesting the extradition of Christopher “Dudus” Coke in the first place. During my visit, before the current troubles, I saw absolutely no anti-American sentiment anywhere I went.
Personal observations while on assignment in Kingston, Jamaica.
Panic in St. Catherine. Go-Jamaica. May 24, 2010. Retrieved from go-jamaica.com/news/read_article.php?id=19532 on May 24, 2010.
Attack on State – Police stations set ablaze Cop shot, civilian slain. The Gleaner. May 24, 2010. Retrieved from www.jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20100524/lead/lead1.html on May 24, 2010.
Preparation for war. The Gleaner. May 24, 2010. Retrieved from www.jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20100524/news/news1.html on May 24, 2010.
‘Defend Yourselves!’ – Commish to police. Jamaica Observer, May 24, 2010. Retrieved from www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-Defend-yourselves—–Commish-to-police on May 24, 2010.