Jamaica's Bruce Golding denies link to drug lord Dudus Coke
Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding angrily dismissed reports that he is an associate of Dudus Coke, the alleged drug lord and gang leader. Mr. Golding vowed to root out gang leaders, or 'dons', from Jamaican communities.
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The ruling JLP has longstanding ties to the Shower Posse and the dons that rule many of Kingston's poorest neighborhoods. The gang's home base of Tivoli Gardens is practically the prototype for the so-called garrison communities that both the JLP and its rival, the People's National Party (PNP) have set up with the help of gunmen to deliver large blocks of votes and safe seats in parliament.Skip to next paragraph
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Tivoli was built as a public housing project in the mid-1960s by then JLP Prime Minister Edward Seaga. Mr. Seaga had a slum in west Kingston, inhabited mostly by supporters of the rival PNP, destroyed and replaced with new housing for loyalists of his party – some were gunmen used by the party to intimidate voters come election time. That helped establish a pattern in Jamaica politics, with the PNP developing neighborhoods for its own supporters and allied gangsters when in power.
Tivoli has solidly supported the JLP ever since, and is part of Golding's own constituency. Lester "Jim Brown" Coke, a former Shower Posse leader, Tivoli don, and Dudus Coke's father, was burned to death in his cell in 1992 while awaiting extradition to the US. Mr. Seaga -- Golding's predecessor as head of the JLP and a former prime minister -- attended the funeral.
This reporter spent a week in Kingston meeting with former and current gangsters in June 2009, many of whom described the ways in which politicians rely on the dons for electoral muscle. The dons, they said, in turn became government patronage conduits to voters and were allowed to run protection and other rackets. The impunity of dons like Coke have given Jamaica one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world. But to many of their followers in Jamaica's slums, they are protectors -- power brokers who can be turned to for help securing a government job, paying a debt, or simply putting food on the table in tough times.
Nevertheless, Golding is now vowing to bust up the gangs. While the state of emergency declared in Kingston is temporary, and has been focused on the violence of Coke's followers as he fights extradition, both the prime minister and opposition leader Portia Simpson Miller of the PNP said the military should be used to go after more dons and their followers.
"During this period of public emergency, a concerted effort will be made to go after the criminal gunmen in whatever community they may be ensconced," Golding told legislators. The state of emergency will not be restricted to dealing with Coke "because there is a general pattern of criminality, lawlessness and the kind of criminality that is not unwilling to confront and challenge the institutions of authority in the State."
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