Sunday, March 3, 2024

The don of Tivoli


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IN THE ERA OF neo-liberal capitalism and imperialism, the international cocaine trade was one of the most lucrative businesses in the world. Neo-liberal ideas benefited the purveyors of free movement of capital and drugs. In this neo-liberal world, the dons became powerhouses in Jamaica. They had more resources than the politicians and there was a degree of cooperation between them as they agreed on their geographic territory. While the People’s National Party (PNP) was in power under PJ Patterson, PNP dons became powerful in the society and this power was manifested when Donald Zekes Phipps was arrested and charged by the police for attempted murder, illegal possession of a firearm and unlawful wounding.  Phipps was respected by the opposition dons to the point where they joined in a protest against his arrest. While he was being interrogated at the Central Police Station, Phipps’ supporters rioted, leaving four persons – including two policemen – dead.It was not until Phipps appeared on the balcony of the police station and ordered his followers to return to their homes that the demonstrations ended. With Phipps in the eastern part of Kingston and Chistopher Dudus Coke in the western part of Kingston, the ruling class had the society sown up so that there could be no real political organising by an independent force outside of the gangster political forces.Dudus had inherited the infrastructure of his father after the murder of his elder brother, Mark Jah T Coke. Another brother, Michael Chris Royal Coke, was killed by the police. Edward Seaga was sufficiently threatened by the rise of  power of Dudus within Tivoli that Seaga labelled Dudus a “troublemaker”.Dudus became so powerful inside and outside Jamaica that he was called ‘president’. Urban legend credited Dudus as being the decider as to who should inherit the constituency of Tivoli Gardens after Seaga resigned from active politics in 2005.ChargedIn August 2009, Dudus was charged by a grand jury in the southern district of New York with conspiracy to distribute marijuana and cocaine and to traffic in firearms during a period between 1994 to 2007.According to the charges, the acts described in the indictment violated the laws of the United States. Pursuant to an extradition treaty between the two countries, the United States issued Diplomatic Note No 296 on 25 August 2009 requesting Dudus’ extradition.Prime Minister Bruce Golding adopted an anti-imperialist posture opposing the extradition of Dudus and went on the offensive against the United States claiming unspecified “breaches” in the gathering of the United States wiretap evidence.Golding avoided the obvious double standard of the United States government in the whole question of extraditing terrorists and murderers. Luis Posada Carilles, a Cuban born and naturalised Venezuelan, is wanted in the Caribbean and Latin America, in connection with his involvement in the 1976 bombing tragedy of a Cubana aircraft off Barbados in which 73 people on board perished. Successive United States administrators have refused to hand over Posada Carilles who had been active in the Caribbean at the same time when the CIA was destabilising the Caribbean region.Prime Minister Golding’s weakness did not end at his pseudo anti-imperialism in attempting to block the extradition of Dudus. Progressive journalists in the Caribbean exposed the double standards of the US media in their claim to be opposed to gun violence in the Caribbean.The Jamaican government engaged the legal services of a firm in Washington, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips to lobby the American government on the extradition issue of Coke. Urban legend among the poor suggested that it was Dudus that was paying the Jamaican government for the legal services of this top notch legal firm in Washington. Inside Jamaica, Dudus was being represented by a senior Senator from one of the royal families of the Jamaica Labour party, Tom Tavares-Finson.After months of jockeying and maneuvering between the Jamaican government and the government of the United States, the United States started to deny visas to select members of the ruling class of Jamaica.‘Corruption’Along with this pressure, the United States issued its Narcotics Control Strategy Report of March 2010 stating that the ruling party’s well-known ties with Coke highlighted the “potential depth of corruption in the government”.Sections of the Jamaican ruling class panicked under this pressure and after months of declaring that the sovereignty of Jamaica had been breached, on May 17, the government of Jamaica issued a warrant for the arrest of Christopher Dudus Coke.Two days after the government of Jamaica issued a warrant for the arrest of Dudus, residents of the garrison community began to mount barricades as sections of West Kingston, including the downtown business district, became tense. One day later on May 20, hundreds marched in support of Coke. Some compared Dudus to Jesus and said they were willing to die for him.And they did die by the dozens after the soldiers and the police invaded Tivoli. The violence and carnage in Jamaica that gave Jamaica the label of the murder capital of the world did not seriously affect the tourist industry. The political leaders had organised the garrison communities and the tourist industry in such a way that those profiting from tourism and gangsterism would continue to do business, regardless of whether there was a state of emergency in Jamaica or not.By the first decade of the 21st century there was not one poor community in Jamaica that was not besmirched by the violence and the killings. The rich lived in sealed and gated communities while the poor lived in constant danger. The real tragedy was that the scale of the violence acted as a prohibitive factor for real political organising of the poor.This scale of gangsterism and neo-liberalism is to be found in all parts of the Caribbean. New networks of peace, justice and truth remain throughout the region exposing the corruption of the societies.The struggle against the cocaine business in the Caribbean is a struggle for a new form of society. In the interim, it is hoped that Dudus made a tape while he was in hiding so that the entire political establishment can be exposed as enablers of the international gangsterism that is hidden behind the war on drugs.

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