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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.

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So while politicians and gangsters still work closely in Jamaica, it's not as clear today who's in charge.

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Golding's about face

Golding had fought Coke's extradition for the better part of a year, though Jamaican analysts and opposition politicians still argue over whether it was out of fear or friendship.

On the one hand, Golding's party has profited from its relationship with the Tivoli dons for 30 years. On the other, Coke had warned he wouldn't be extradited without a fight. The prime minister would have been well aware of what happens when you try to extradite a Coke – or any Shower Posse leader, for that matter – to the US.

In 1992, Lester "Jim Brown" Coke, Dudus' father, was sitting in jail fighting a US extradition request. At the time, another of his sons, Mark "Jah-T" Coke, was taking care of business in Tivoli.

When Jah-T was murdered by a member of a gang that supported the PNP, the Shower Posse went on a rampage.

The Shower Posse stormed the hospital in Kingston where Jah-T had died (on the theory that he had been denied medical treatment, since the PNP were in power at the time) and rampaged in the PNP garrison community of Hannah Town, leaving about 30 dead.

Jah-T was buried almost a month later, with many of Jamaica's leading lights in attendance, including former prime minister (and JLP leader) Edward Seaga. It was a powerful sign of how far the posses had come. It was "the equivalent of a state funeral,” said Ms. Gunst in her book about Jamaica's posses.

That same day, "Jim Brown" Coke, who had just lost his last appeal against extradition and had vowed to take down senior Jamaican politicians if forced to testify in the US, burned to death in his cell.

That murder has not been solved to this day though "everyone knew that Vivian Blake and Seaga wanted Brown dead" Gunst wrote. Neverthless, Mr. Seaga attended the father's funeral as well. Mr. Blake, who ran the Shower Posses' US operations, has since passed on. Golding replaced Seaga as head of the JLP. Dudus Coke replaced his father and brother as the don of Tivoli Gardens.

What happened this time?

The trigger for the current violent showdown was the Jamaican press. On May 17, Golding was forced to give a nationally televised speech after the press discovered he had hired a powerful Washington lobbying firm to help fight Coke's extradition. He offered his "deepest apologies" to the people of Jamaica but insisted, contrary to local press reports, that the $50,000 paid to Mannat, Phelps & Phillips LLC to lobby against Coke's extradition came from the JLP's pockets, not the government's.