25 Jun 2010

Jamaica extradites alleged drug lord to US

Alleged drug kinpin Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke arrives in the US to face drug charges following his deadly manhunt. Journalist Annie Paul writes about the optimism felt for Jamaica’s future.

Journalist Annie Paul writes about the optimism felt for Jamaica’s future.

In Jamaica, farce, intrigue and tragedy remain inextricably intertwined. The fugitive don, Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, on the run since 24 May, was finally intercepted by the Jamaican police earlier this week while they were supposedly conducting random spot checks on passing motorists. There was a J$5m bounty for information leading to his arrest.

We’re told that he was being escorted by charismatic preacher Reverend Al Miller to the US Embassy in an abortive attempt at surrendering to American authorities who had clamoured for his extradition. We’re also informed that he was sporting a curly black woman’s wig when the police stopped the car and that he thanked them for sparing his life. These are titillating details but who knows if we’ll ever know the whole truth?

Christopher 'Dudus' Coke in Curly Wig disguise

In a matter of weeks Coke has gone from being the most feared gang leader or strongman in Jamaica to a figure of scorn and ridicule after police released photos of him wearing a wig and looking like an earnest church-going matron.

Many are convinced that the police deliberately placed the wig on his head before photographing him in order to ridicule him and raise doubts about the awesome powers he is supposed to possess.

Coke appeared before a Jamaican Resident Magistrate who held court at a maximum security facility in Kingston. He was then was flown out of Jamaica to the US to face charges of drug and gun running there. The nation waited with bated breath to see if he would actually leave the island alive unlike his ill-fated father, the legendary Jim Brown, who was allegedly set ablaze in his cell on the eve of his extradition to the US for similar charges. That was in the 90s.

After the intense military and police activity of the last few weeks, with violent raids being conducted all over Kingston while security forces were desperately seeking Dudus, his final capture and impending extradition seem almost anti-climactic.

Coke, the manhunt and the government connections
Coke, known locally as 'Dudus', was wanted in the US for a number of drug and gun related offenses. He is named by the US Justice Department on the list of most wanted "dangerous narcotics kingpins".

US prosecutors believe Coke is the leader of the "Shower Posse," which murdered hundreds of people by 'showering' them with bullets during the cocaine wars of the 1980s. Coke's father Lester Coke was said to control the outfit before his death in 1992.

The US first requested Coke's extradition in August last year. As extradition requests were initially refused an arrest warrant to being proceedings was finally issued in May 2010, sparking violence in the Jamaican capital Kingston.

76 people died in the clashes between police and supporters of Coke; who many believe "filled a void" to provide for local communities after a failure of the state.

Analysts say politicians and local gang leaders have for decades "shared power" in the country. Prime Minister Bruce Golding is said to have relied on Coke for voter support in his Kingston stronghold of Tivoli Gardens.

Only in March this year the Police had worried aloud that the country’s 268 gangs might act in concert to create incidents throughout the country to distract lawmen if there was any attempt to capture Coke. The violent reprisals that accompanied the raid into Coke’s stronghold, Tivoli Gardens, on 24 May have not recurred since his arrest earlier this week.

Coke himself seems surprised and grateful at the restraint shown by Jamaican police when they intercepted the car he was travelling in with Rev Miller on 22 May. The police, once famously described by Bob Marley as being “all dressed in uniforms of brutality”, seem to have finessed a textbook arrest of the country’s Public Enemy Number One with no shots fired and not a drop of bloodshed.

The unexpectedly peaceful capture of the country’s most wanted man, the sustained assault on criminal gangs and their leaders, and the cautious upward movement in the value of the local dollar have given Jamaicans cause for optimism about the future.