Kingston, Jamaica exploded in violence
this week as local police and Jamaican soldiers tried to locate and
apprehend Christopher Coke, an alleged drug lord wanted for trial in
the United States. Coke, whom the U.S. considers one of the world's
most dangerous drug traffickers, is thought to be walled up in a
housing complex in West Kingston. More than 1,000 soldiers and police
officers have been deployed to the area in recent days, but Coke's
gunmen have returned fire, killing at least three. Violence has spread
to other parts of the city, more than two dozen civilians have died,
and the government has declared a state of emergency in Kingston.
Meanwhile, the bloodshed has occasioned a number of observations about
the role of the drug trade in Jamaican society.
- Coke 'Plays the Robin Hood Role' The University of Miami professor David Rowe
has said that Coke essentially functions as a one-man economic engine
for many Kingston residents who'd otherwise live in desperate poverty.
"He lives in a poor area, and because of his sale of cocaine, he
basically plays the Robin Hood role," Rowe told CNN Monday. If Coke is
extradited to the U.S., Rowe says, he'll leave behind "mothers
wondering, 'Who's going to buy my child lunch?' or 'If I get sick,
who's going to pay my hospital bills?'"
- ...Which Points Up a Weakness of Globalized Economics At Seattle alt-weekly The Stranger, Charles Mudede
calls the Kingston imbroglio "one of the most interesting developments
in the post-neoliberal world (meaning, a world no longer enchanted by
neoliberal ideology)." Mudede's contention is that "the gangsters have
filled a space left by a state that was probably forced by the IMF to
do what America never does, namely run a surplus budget. This cruel
policy leads to considerable cuts in state spending and basic social
services. This leads to more chaos for the most poor and vulnerable
portions of the population." He goes on to say that "there are real
criminal elements in all of this; but the police have no legitimacy
because the state has not all been about its people but protecting and
enforcing the interests of powerful people in the most powerful
countries in the world."
- Police Offense Shows the Government's Courage At The Christian Science Monitor, Clayton Jones
praises the "unusual bravery" of Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding,
as well as the Mexican politicians who have cracked down on drug
syndicates in that country. "This takes tremendous courage. The drug
gangs have become tightly woven into each nation's politics," Jones
points out. The lesson here? "National leaders must finally see drug
lords for what they are - a menace - and not something to be coddled or
- Yes, His Name Really Is Christopher Coke PoliBlog's Steven Taylor notes the odd coincidence. But he's quick to add that "the above would be more amusing if the current situation wasn't so violent."
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