U.S. Brings Drug War to Jamaica, Death Toll Up to 50

By Julianne Hing May 26, 2010

Police patrol the streets outside the neighborhood of Tivoli Gardens in Kingston. REUTERS/Andrew P. Smith Efforts to extradite an alleged Jamaican drug lord to the United States have led to a violent standoff between civilians and armed forces in Jamaica. Reuters is reporting that the death toll hit 49 last night after police broke through a barricade set up to protect Christopher "Dudus" Coke, often called the most powerful man in Jamaica. Coke is wanted in the U.S. on charges of marijuana, cocaine and arms trafficking, and faces life in prison if found guilty. He is the alleged leader of a Kingston-based gang called the Shower Posse, with outposts scattered up and down the East Coast, Canada and the U.K. Since Prime Minister Bruce Golding announced he would honor the U.S. extradition request last week, Coke’s base in the poor neighborhood of Tivoli Gardens in Kingston has barricaded the neighborhood. On Sunday, Prime Minister Golding declared a state of emergency after sending over a thousand armed troops to try to break through a barricade that Coke’s supporters had built around the Tivoli Gardens neighborhood of Kingston. Earlier this week, supporters of Coke’s firebombed police stations around the nation’s capital. Coke is also seen as a local hero; hundreds of Coke’s supporters, wearing all white, turned out in the streets over the weekend hailing him as a generous leader who’s funded the health care and education of many Jamaicans.