Support for crime boss 'Dudas' Coke still strong in Jamaica
'Dudas' Coke reportedly helped poor people in his neighborhood pay for food and school fees, making him wildly popular despite international charges of brutality, writes guest blogger Hannah Stone.
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One of the arguments made by the prosecution was that public demonstrations in Kingston in support of Coke showed that there was a danger he would return to Jamaica and continue his criminal activities if he was not given the longest possible sentence. There were fears that the sentencing could spark protests in the city, and on Friday police imposed tight security measures in west Kingston, including curfews in some areas.Skip to next paragraph
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In another sign of the popular support for Coke, one of Jamaica's most popular singers, Kingston-based reggae artist Horace Andy, wrote a laudatory song about Coke for his forthcoming album, referring to the crime boss by his nickname of "Presi," for president, reports the Gleaner:
Dudus we know a you rule
Presi we miss you
Things no calm since you gone
The people them nah live right
Every day them a fuss an' fight ...
These responses to Coke’s case are a sign of the complex nature of the power he wielded, which is closely tied to politics. As a recent Center on International Cooperation report sets out, Jamaican “dons” like Coke are used by the political class to exert control over poor neighborhoods. They receive protection and funds from the government in exchange for making sure the area votes the right way in elections. In some areas these gang bosses take over the functions of the state, holding a monopoly over violence, and providing security and services to local people.
Coke reportedly helped poor people in his Tivoli Gardens neighborhood to pay for food and school fees, throwing Christmas parties and keeping streets clean, while keeping the authorities out. Prosecutors in the case asserted that "Because Coke's heavily armed soldiers patrolled the Tivoli Gardens community, it was largely closed to Jamaican law enforcement.” The US indictment against Coke, meanwhile, described the area as a "garrison" community, "a barricaded neighborhood guarded by a group of armed gunmen."
When the police and army were sent in to Tivoli Gardens in May 2010, they did little to win over the population. The government forces faced massive resistance from Coke’s troops, with days of fighting which the Brookings Institute said “resembled urban warfare.” Seventy-three people died in the clashes, with claims that some were executed in cold blood by the police. More than 1,000 complaints of civil rights violations were submitted to the public defender after the incident.