Is It Unlawful To Use Old Charges On New Warrant Diplomacy and the Don – The Exposure of Jamaica’s Drug Trade

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Diplomacy and the Don – The Exposure of Jamaica’s Drug Trade

A storm is brewing over Jamaica that threatens to upend the island’s already battered economy and land its government in diplomatic trouble with the United States. Last August, the US Department of Justice issued an extradition warrant for the arrest of Christopher “Dudus” Coke, known as the don of the notorious West Kingston Garrison in Tivoli Gardens. Coca-Cola, listed among the “world’s most dangerous drug kingpins” by the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), has been charged with conspiracy to traffic firearms and distribute marijuana and cocaine.

To date, Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding has ignored mounting local and American pressure to sign the extradition order, citing a violation of Jamaican law in obtaining intercepted evidence and protecting its citizens in due process. But this is not an ordinary citizen.

The tentacles of Coke’s power and influence extend throughout Jamaica and into the highest levels of the current government. The community that controls Coke is a notorious stronghold of the ruling Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) and is Prime Minister Golding’s constituency; his defense attorney, Senator Tom Tavares-Finson, is a member of Parliament.

More than a diplomatic stalemate, the David-and-Goliath showdown threatens to expose the corruption that has for decades been central to Jamaican politics. Moreover, it underscores the reality that politics and criminal gangs remain closely linked in both political parties. The ongoing diplomatic deadlock has major ramifications for the popular tourist destination, which relies heavily on US support and largesse in the form of exports, tourism and remittances.

Then, a bombshell: A Washington Post article reported that last November, the prominent American law firm Manatt, Phelps and Phillips received nearly $50,000, a down payment toward a $400,000 contract, to lobby on behalf of the Jamaican government against extradition of Coke.

The agreement was signed by Manatt’s partner Susan Schmidt and Kingston’s lawyer Harold Brady, who claimed he was “authorized on behalf of the Government of Jamaica” to make the deal, and was attended by Daryl Vaz, Jamaica’s Minister of Information. The deal violates the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), because of the firm’s failure to declare the scope and scope of their lobbying efforts, and because Coke financed the contract.

Although records filed by Manatt under FARA regulations say only “treaty matters” were discussed, White House officials confirm that the conversations focused primarily on Jamaica’s objection to Coke’s extradition. In the ensuing furore, Prime Minister Golding denied that anyone was authorized to act on behalf of the government and the law firm has since “ceased activities on behalf of the Government of Jamaica”. But questions remain, above all among them: Who has the power to broker and finance such an agreement, and why?

It’s all anyone talks about, taxi drivers, businessmen, nurses, vendors on the island. Yet as a testament to its power and reach, almost no one will speak on the record — not university professors, reporters, friends or the man on the street — and questions are met with dead-eyed stares and disconnected phone lines. A palpable tension hangs over downtown Kingston and across the island, an uneasy uneasiness.

Impenetrable to outsiders, the entrances to the garrisons in the center of the city are barricaded with cement stones, tires and old iron. They are patrolled by steely-eyed boys with automatic weapons slung at their sides, fingers not far from the trigger. Ghetto passes are not enough here, and curiosity responds with a loud “Who are you?” Coke’s supporters – who are legion – insist he won’t go down without a fight and rumors are rampant about his willingness.

Garrison communities—Tivoli, Trench Town, Jungle, Fletcher’s Land, and others—are self-governing, politically protected, partisan-striated enclaves dependent on and controlled by “dons” and their gangs, who are the liaison between community and politics. parties. Dons receive the patronage and political protection of party leaders, which insulates them from law enforcement. In return, they finance political campaigns, cast votes, wage wars to defend territories and generally maintain peace.

Despite their reputations for criminality and corruption, many donors profit enormously from government contracts for construction, transport and infrastructure, and, in turn, use these legitimate businesses to launder money. They fill a gap that successive governments seem unable and unwilling to address.

At this point, Coke has been instrumental in reviving, restructuring and streamlining trade and ensuring the safety and protection of both vendors and shoppers in downtown Kingston. Now, business transactions and social interactions (such as the popular dancehall event, Passa Passa) are mutually beneficial, and money flows to poverty-stricken communities unlikely to benefit from tourism dollars or government subsidies.

It has also managed to curb much of the violence and terror that these areas are known for historically. But this peace comes at a high price: There is no business that operates without paying up to a seeker – from established businesses and storefronts to producers selling in markets. Refusal means arson, intimidation and threats of violence without legal remedies.

Politicians have ceded their power to gangsters and seem unable or unwilling to tame the chaos they helped create since they began arming the inner-city gangs of Kingston and beyond. As the impasse tightens, Jamaicans fear a return and outbreak of violence and what will flourish in the vacuum created by his extradition.

Jamaicans are a famously proud people who oppose the notion of bowing to anything and anyone, but many are angered and outraged by the rotten stench of decades of corruption, which they feel tarnishes the island’s image around the world. . Regardless of the solution, in the bitter aftermath, an unbearable price will be paid by ordinary Jamaicans struggling to make ends meet.

The US sharpens its tools

The failure began with Jamaica’s prominence in the 2010 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, which highlighted the country’s numerous violations. The report turns the spotlight on the “unusual treatment of [Coke’s] extradition request” and notes the “dramatic change in Jamaica’s previous cooperation on extradition,” including a temporary suspension in the processing of all other pending requests, which it says raises serious questions about the commitment of country to fight transnational crime.

Damningly, the report highlights the trade in “guns for ganja” and labels the island “the largest source of marijuana in the Caribbean” for the United States and “a transit point for cocaine trafficked from South America” ​​and cites the “scale high homicide rate per capita”. –1,672 in 2009, one of the highest in the world.” He expresses concern about “the growing activity of organized crime, which permeates the legitimate business sector as well as the political sector, and its impact on political and economic stability of Jamaica.”

Despite Jamaican charge d’affaires Isaiah Parnell’s assertions that ties remain strong between the countries, Washington is growing weary of the wait and skeptical of the government’s political will. Despite Prime Minister Golding’s assertions that efforts are being made to strengthen bilateral cooperation to stem the tide of illegal arms and drugs, anti-corruption and anti-crime legislation is still languishing in Parliament.

To date, the United States has yet to appoint an ambassador to Jamaica, and recently, the visas of several prominent artists and businessmen have been revoked without warning. Many citizens are concerned that US visas will not be granted or renewed.

What are the options ahead for Coke, who resides in a sprawling mansion in the leafy suburbs of Kingston, miles from the congested slums he supposedly commands? His father, terrified of JLP strongman Lloyd Lester “Jim Brown” Coke, JLP enforcer and leader of the Shower Posse — which for more than a decade funneled drugs and guns across the US and Jamaica — also found himself in the same predicament. Coke Sr. died in a mysterious fire in his general prison cell on the eve of his extradition in February 1991.

Currently, political foot-dragging continues before the Supreme Court of Jamaica. Jamaica’s Attorney General, Dorothy Lightbourne, has filed a motion seeking a declaration on the handling of the extradition request for Coca-Cola. The hearing is scheduled for May 5.

As the high-stakes game of chicken continues, a country waits: anxious, alert, hopeful.

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