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Jamaica attacks: a legacy of ties between politicians and gangs

What do Dudus Coke, Jah-T, and Jim Brown all have in common? They're all related, connected to the ruling Jamaica Labour Party, and their Kingston gang ties have helped spark multiple Jamaica attacks.

By Staff writer / May 25, 2010

Jamaica attacks: Alleged drug gang leader Christopher "Dudus" Coke is shown in this undated photo. Jamaican Police have an arrest warrant for "Dudus", who is sought by US authorities on drug and arms trafficking charges.

The Jamaica Gleaner/AP

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When the US presses for the extradition of an alleged drug lord from Jamaica, it might seem a straightforward request.

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But as the Jamaica attacks of the past three days have demonstrated, dealing with organized crime in Jamaica is full of perils, from gangs that have the muscle to stand up to the state, to gang-leaders who have helped put members of the political elite in office. And this sort of stand off has happened before.

Three days of violence since Prime Minister Bruce Golding said his government would abandon its nine-month fight to prevent the extradition of alleged Shower Posse boss Christopher "Dudus" Coke to the US have claimed at least 31 lives in Kingston. The US alleges (pdf download of US indictment) that Mr. Coke presided over a drug empire that imported tens of millions of dollars of cocaine and marijuana into the US between 1994 and 2007, and reexported both money and US guns to Jamaica.

Most of the fighting has been in and around the Shower Posse stronghold of Tivoli Gardens, one of Kingston's so-called garrison communities, but has also involved an attack on a downtown Kingston police station by what Jamaican authorities said were Coke loyalists from the Shower Posse (so-named when it was founded roughly 30 years ago because it "rained bullets" on its enemies). Coke is believed to be holed up in Tivoli.

Jamaica's garrisons emerged in the 1970s when toughs in Kingston's poorest neighborhoods started turning out votes for one of Jamaica's two main political parties -- the People's National Party (PNP) or Mr. Golding's ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). They were given weapons and a free hand to run protection rackets in exchange, according to Laurie Gunst's 1996 book "Born Fi' Dead," about the rise of Jamaica's posses.

The Shower Posse in Tivoli has always delivered votes for the JLP, which is also part of Golding's parliamentary constituency. But when the cocaine transhipment business boomed in the late 70's and 80's, many gang leaders found they needed their political protectors less and less, the Shower Posse perhaps first among them. Money from eager US cocaine and crack consumers was pouring home, as were American guns purchased by gang associates living in the US. Many of the garrison leaders, known locally as "dons," became major power brokers in their own right.

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