War despite best contacts with ruling party

In Jamaica’s Tivoli Gardens slum, organized crime defends its monopoly on violence

There are areas where organized crime more or less openly has a monopoly on violence. In the rough part of Kosovo, for example – or in some Jamaican slums, where the dons sung about in dancehall reggae "Dons" regulate the distribution of resources.

In Tivoli Gardens, one of these slums, Christopher Coke reigns supreme. Born in 1969 "Dudus", who describes himself as a businessman and "community leader" is the son of the drug lord Lester Lloyd Coke and is supposed to preside over investigations of the US judicial authorities after the so-called Shower Posse. This Shower Posse supplies, among other things, the rough area of New York with the eighties drug crack, which is why the U.S. Last September filed an extradition request against "Dudus" made.

That extradition request, however, ran into two obstacles: First, Dudus used "Dudus" maintained close ties with Jamaica’s ruling Labour Party, and second, the distribution of resources apparently created loyalties among slum dwellers. According to the BBC correspondent Matthew Price, a considerable part of the population considers Coke to be a "good" product "a kind of Robin Hood", protecting the poor.

The Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding. Photo: Antônio Cruz. License: CC-BY 2.5 Brazil.

It came as little surprise to many observers that Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding first tried to have the arrest warrant lifted by means of an expensive American lobbying firm paid for by the Labor Party. When that didn’t work, and the U.S. Justice Department stepped up the pressure, the government of the virtually bankrupt country agreed on 17 December to a new law. May to extradition, and Coke’s attorney, a Jamaican senator, resigned his seat to avoid a "conflict of interest" of interest".

Afterward, gangsters in the Jamaican capital of Kingston allegedly attacked four police stations, capturing and setting fire to one of them. Following this, a four-digit number of police and soldiers with armored vehicles and helicopters marched into Tivoli Gardens and met fierce resistance from heavily armed "Dudus"-supporters who had erected barricades of barbed wire, cars and cow barriers filled with sand. Because Tivoli Gardens is only about 2 kilometers from the city center, authorities declared a state of emergency for all of Kingston and also closed schools outside the slum. In Spanish Town, which lies 22 kilometers west of Kingston, there was also a scam. The firefights even led to the partial blocking of the access road to the Kingston airport.

Coke has not been found in the raid, but a lot of other wanted criminals and illegal weapons have been found. In total, the security forces arrested 500 people. On the whereabouts of the "Don" there is wild speculation in Jamaican media as well as in forums, ranging from negotiations with the American embassy to a flight to Venezuela. In an online survey conducted by the Jamaica Observer, just over half of the 10,000.000 participants, just under half blamed politicians in general for the clashes. A good third blamed the current government alone, and only about 10 percent blamed Coke.

The struggles for the monopoly of violence in Jamaican slums are not the first – however, they are increasing in severity by historical standards: four people died in a similar operation in 1997, twenty-seven in 2001, and at least 50 in the current clashes until yesterday.

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