What’s going on in Kingston?

28 May

When Jamaica hits international newspapers outside of the travel section, you know something serious is going on. Most of the news  of the state of emergency in Kingston, Jamaica, has been repetitive and without much background to a story that’s been developing for months, or as many Jamaicans would argue, years. Here’s some of the more elucidating reports on the situation.

Tivoli Speaks

On Thursday, Jamaican security forces took journalists on a tour of Tivoli Gardens, the center of the violence, an area led by alleged trafficker Christopher “Dudus” Coke and represented by Prime Minister Bruce Golding. What reporters were allowed to see was selective, but The Gleaner put together this video of the voices of some residents.

For those of you trying to catch up on why this all went down, this report from the Miami Herald lays out a pretty good background including, most importantly, why Bruce Golding resisted the US’s extradition request for Christopher Coke for eight months, and the potential political fallout for his party, the Jamaica Labor Party,  now that he has signed it.

International followers have been hearing a lot about this Shower Posse and Tivoli Gardens. This is the second time this year that both made it to international newspapers. The first was in late March, when the passing of Vivian Blake in Kingston was cause for a reflection of the Jamaican government’s affiliations with illicit leaders. Here’s the NYT’s obit of Blake, another leader of the Shower Posse with intercontinental tentacles, a US rap sheet, and a legendary history in Western Kingston.

News reports have also mentioned the stunning detail of former Golding’s predecessor, Edward Seaga, attending the funeral of Christopher Coke’s father, Lester “Jim Brown” Coke. Well, Seaga has added his voie of response to the crisis in Tivoli Gardens. Like current PM Bruce Golding, Seaga represented Western Kingston. Apparently, some must suspect that with his close ties to Shower Posse leaders and Tivoli Gardens, Seaga may have some insight into the whereabouts of Mr. Coke. “I haven’t got a clue,” he told the Gleaner.

The most important and distressing reports out of Kingston reveal just how dire the situation is in Tivoli Gardens, and how ill-prepared the country, despite a high murder rate in normal times, is to deal with it. The morgue is full. Rumors are spreading of mass graves. Radio stations are imploring listeners to donate blood, and alerting them that the hospitals are only accepting emergency medical situations.

As for the US government, whose extradition request spawned the Jamaican government’s action that led to this outbreak of violence?  The New York Times rightly asked, and the Obama administration expressed support for Golding’s actions:

“As the Jamaican government seeks to uphold the rule of law, the United States stands in support of its efforts to ensure public safety and to combat drug trafficking and other criminal activity,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.

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