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Jamaica declares emergency in capital after attacks

  1. Terrapinzflyer
    Jamaica declares emergency in capital after attacks
    (Reuters) - Jamaica declared a state of emergency in two parishes of its capital Kingston on Sunday after shooting and firebomb attacks on police stations by suspected supporters of an alleged drug lord who faces extradition to the United States.

    "A state of public emergency, limited to the parishes of Kingston and St. Andrew, has been declared and will come into effect at 6:00 p.m. (2300 GMT) today," the government's Jamaica Information Service (JIS) said.

    The limited emergency in the popular Caribbean tourist destination covered districts of the capital where gunmen on Sunday fired on two police stations and set fire to another. At least one policemen was injured.

    The attackers were suspected supporters of Christopher "Dudus" Coke whom the government has called on to surrender to face a U.S. extradition request on cocaine trafficking and gun-running charges.

    Streets into the poor Tivoli Gardens area of West Kingston, where Coke is believed to be hiding, were barricaded on Sunday in defiance of a police call for Coke to hand himself over, witnesses said.

    The U.S. Department of State has issued a travel alert warning its citizens of the possibility of violence in Jamaica's Kingston Metropolitan area.

    Tensions in Jamaica rose over the last week after Prime Minister Bruce Golding announced he was starting proceedings to extradite Coke. U.S. prosecutors describe Coke as the leader of the infamous "Shower Posse" that murdered hundreds of people during the cocaine wars of the 1980s.

    Relations between Jamaica and the United States grew strained when Jamaica initially spurned a 2009 extradition request for Coke, who is a supporter of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party and wields influence in the volatile inner city constituency that Golding represents.


    The violence comes as the government is moving ahead with an International Monetary Fund loan program.

    The IMF in February finalized a $1.27 billion loan for Jamaica, its first loan from the fund in 15 years, to help the Caribbean nation address deep-rooted weaknesses in its economy and make it less vulnerable to economic shocks, such as last year's financial crisis.

    The United States requested Coke's extradition in August 2009 but Jamaica initially refused, alleging that U.S. evidence against him had been gathered through illegal wiretaps.

    In its annual narcotics control strategy report in March, the U.S. State Department said Coke's ties to Jamaica's ruling party "highlights the potential depth of corruption in the government."

    Golding acknowledged in parliament earlier this month that he had been aware that his party hired a U.S. law firm to lobby the Obama administration against pursuing Coke's extradition.

    He had initially denied knowledge of the hiring but later said he had sanctioned it in his capacity as leader of the ruling party and not as prime minister.

    The admission prompted demands for the resignation of Golding, who is midway through a five-year term.

    (Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Cynthia Osterman)
    May 23 2010


  1. Terrapinzflyer
    Jamaica police storm stronghold of alleged drugs lord
    Jamaican security forces have launched an assault in Kingston on the stronghold of alleged drugs lord Christopher "Dudus" Coke.

    Jamaican security forces have launched an assault in Kingston on the stronghold of alleged drugs lord Christopher "Dudus" Coke.

    Heavy gunfire erupted as they moved in to the Tivoli Gardens district and a number of casualties have been reported.

    Supporters of Mr Coke are fighting to stop his extradition to the US on drug and gun running charges.

    Two officers have been killed in the unrest and six others wounded.

    There are reports of bodies lying in the streets in the latest operation, the BBC's Nick Davis in Kingston says.

    The Jamaican Observer reported that at least two soldiers had been shot, one in the chest, and had been taken to hospital.

    There are also reports of violence in other parts of Kingston, raising fears that the unrest is spreading.

    A state of emergency was declared in parts of Kingston on Friday after several police stations were attacked.

    Huge support
    Our correspondent says the operation started shortly before midday, and large numbers of soldiers were seen heading to the poor Tivoli Gardens in west Kingston.

    Plumes of smoke could be seen coming from the area as police helicopters buzzed overhead.

    Security Minister Dwight Nelson said the soldiers, in a joint operation with police, had broken down the barricades around Tivoli Gardens and were doing a house-to-house search for Mr Coke.

    "The purpose of the operation is to execute the warrant for extradition and to detain [Coke] so he can appear in court," he told the BBC.

    He insisted the police were "doing everything in their power to ensure the city remains safe".

    But some reports said police had met heavy resistance from armed gunmen as they tried to enter Tivoli Gardens.

    Residents in the area have been advised to remain indoors.

    But one resident said on local radio: "Somebody please come help we, somebody please come help we."

    She said a girl had been killed and witnesses have reported an unspecified number of casualties, the AFP news agency reports.

    Tivoli Gardens is a stronghold of support for 41-year-old Mr Coke - who says he is a community leader - and is represented in parliament by Prime Minister Bruce Golding.

    Mr Coke's supporters see him as a man who is fulfilling a role that the government does not, such as giving them money to support their children.

    They have staged protests and barricaded streets to stop his arrest and extradition.

    But the US Justice Department says Mr Coke is one of the world's most dangerous drug barons. He is accused of leading a gang called the Shower Posse - owing to the volume of bullets used in shootings - and operating an international smuggling network.

    He faces a life sentence if convicted on charges filed against him in New York.

    The gang has also been blamed for numerous murders in Jamaica and the US.

    The trouble started last week when Mr Golding said he was prepared to send Mr Coke to the US on drugs and weapons trafficking charges.

    The decision reversed nine months of opposition to his extradition.

    Mr Golding had argued that the evidence against Mr Coke was obtained illegally by intercepting mobile telephone calls.

    But he changed his mind in the face of growing public discontent, and questions about his possible ties to Mr Coke.

    He has denounced the unrest as a "calculated assault on the authority of the state that cannot be tolerated".

    Monday, 24 May 2010


    there are a couple news video clips embedded in the linked BBC story
  2. Terrapinzflyer
    Experts: Accused Jamaican drug lord akin to Robin Hood, Pablo Escobar

    (CNN) -- Christopher "Dudus" Coke, who controls the impoverished West Kingston enclaves now blockaded by gang members, is likened by experts to both Robin Hood and Pablo Escobar.

    But comparisons to the hero of Sherwood Forest and the one-time Colombian kingpin are not mutually exclusive.

    Coke, 41, rules via a combination of violence, corruption and philanthropy, experts say, and the unrest in the Jamaican capital this week is a result of competing interests: those who want him handed over for drug crimes versus those who consider him a benefactor.

    "He lives in a poor area, and because of his sale of cocaine, he basically plays the Robin Hood role," said Jamaican-born attorney David Rowe, a University of Miami adjunct professor with expertise in Jamaican extraditions.

    Jamaicans, many of whom live in abject poverty in Kingston, are reluctant to help the government extradite Coke to the United States, experts say.

    "They don't know, if he's extradited, who will be there for them. There are mothers wondering, 'Who's going to buy my child lunch?' or 'If I get sick, who's going to pay my hospital bills?' " Rowe explained.

    Coke and his gang hand out sandwiches in the streets, send children to school, build medical and community centers -- "all the things to ingratiate himself that Pablo Escobar used to do in Colombia," said Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a think tank specializing in U.S. policies in Latin America.

    In August, a grand jury in New York handed up an indictment alleging that Coke and his Shower Posse conspired to distribute cocaine and marijuana in the United States. The indictment also accuses Coke and his cohorts of trafficking firearms.

    News reports say the posse is so named for its penchant for raining down bullets on its opponents.

    The Jamaican government initially balked on extradition, and in March, Prime Minister Bruce Golding issued a statement denying claims that his government was not cooperating with U.S. counternarcotics efforts. Instead, he said, a wiretap employed in the American investigation violated Jamaican law.
    "The Jamaican government, rather than summarily refusing the request, discussed with the U.S. authorities the breaches that had occurred which made it impossible for the minister, being aware of such breaches, to issue the authority to proceed," Golding's statement said.

    Last week, Golding delivered a different message, urging citizens to "allow the courts to deal with the extradition matter."

    The violence yielding Monday's state of emergency in Kingston, with gang members battling police, subsequently unfolded.

    Rowe said Coke's organization uses "mules" -- often women smuggling drugs internally -- to distribute cocaine along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard.

    Every major city on the East Coast has Shower Posse representatives, and there is evidence the gang has a presence in places as far away San Francisco, California, and Alaska, the professor said.

    Though Jamaica produces a great deal of marijuana, it serves only as a trans-shipment point for South American cocaine bound for the U.S., he said.

    Birns said guns purchased in the United States are shipped back to Jamaica as well as other locales where cartels need to "impose their writ." The guns being used in the Kingston revolt are probably from the United States, Rowe added.

    With an embattled economy, corrupt politicians and a general lack of public services and security, "Jamaica has become a sort of drug island" servicing not only North America's appetite but also the African market, Birns said.

    Birns said Coke, the son of accused drug lord Lester Lloyd Coke (aka "Jim Brown" or "don dadda"), who was burned to death in a jail cell in 1992, rose to the top of the drug trade amid the turmoil.

    "He is the predominant, he is the triumphant gang leader who has emerged from the drug wars. He has become the Mr. Big of drug trafficking," he said.

    Coke benefits from what Birns calls "the megalithic levels of corruption" in Jamaica.

    In a narcotics report this year, the U.S. State Department said that "pervasive public corruption" as well as corruption at Kingston's ports facilitated the movement of drugs and money through Jamaica.

    "Corruption remains a major barrier to improving counternarcotics efforts," the report said.

    Rowe said Coke enjoys connections within the country's ruling Jamaica Labor Party, of which Golding is a member. Also, Rowe noted, a JLP senator, Thomas Tavares-Finson, recently stepped down as Coke's lawyer. Tavares-Finson also represented Coke's father before his death.

    Rowe said he believes that, more than protecting Coke, JLP officials are concerned with protecting themselves. The grand jury is still investigating Coke, Rowe said, and Golding "believes Coke will cut a deal with prosecutors to testify against senior government members."

    Christopher "Dudus" Coke
    Who is he?
    Son of accused drug lord Lester Lloyd Coke. A New York grand jury indictment alleges that he has been involved with gun and drug trafficking since 1994.
    What are the charges against him?
    Coke was charged in August with conspiracy to distribute marijuana and cocaine, as well as conspiracy to traffic in firearms.
    Is he involved in gangs?
    The U.S. government alleges that Coke runs the Shower Posse, an outfit Coke's father was said to control before his death in 1992.
    Is Coke his real name?
    His real name is Michael Christopher Coke, but his aliases include "Paul Christopher Scott," "Presi," "General," "President," "Duddus" and "Shortman."
    Where is he from?
    He controls a Kingston neighborhood called Tevoli Gardens, which the U.S. government calls a "garrison community" barricaded and guarded by his gunmen. Coke's gang allegedly imports weapons at a wharf adjacent to the neighborhood.

    Source: U.S. Department of Justice

    By Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN
    May 24, 2010 -- Updated 2217 GMT (0617 HKT)

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