U.S. Drug War Sparks Violence in Jamaica

By Julianne Hing May 24, 2010

The United States’ efforts to extradite an alleged Jamaican drug lord–said by some to be the most powerful man in the country–has set off a firestorm in the Caribbean. Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding declared a state of emergency yesterday after violence erupted in the nation’s capital, when Christopher "Dudus" Coke’s supporters barricaded the neighborhood of Tivoli Gardens, in West Kingston, to protect him from extradition. Many say that Golding is using his administration’s influence to keep Coke from being sent to the U.S. The Jamaican government has said the U.S. violated the Interception of Communications Act when investigating Coke. The U.S., meanwhile, may be retaliating in smaller ways. Notable Jamaican music acts including Bounty Killer, Beenie Man, Movado and Adonia have charged that their travel visas to the U.S. have been canceled. Other artists have said their visas have been revoked. The U.S. has sought Coke’s extradition to New York since last August, when he was charged in federal court with conspiracy to distribute marijuana and cocaine and with conspiracy to traffic in firearms illegally. Coke is accused of organizing an international drug and arms smuggling operation and faces life in prison if found guilty. He is also considered a local hero, a benefactor who has paid for the education and health care of many in Jamaica. Dr. Peter Philips, a former national security minister in Jamaica, called him the most powerful man in the country.