Jamaican ‘war on drugs’ bloodbath

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

Jamaica state of siege: Scores dead, hundreds detained

28 May 2010

Scores have been reported killed or wounded and hundreds arrested in what critics describe as indiscriminate violence by Jamaican security forces besieging an impoverished West Kingston neighborhood.

The confrontation, triggered by the Jamaican government’s reluctant acquiescence to Washington’s demand for the extradition of powerful and politically connected reputed drug trafficker, Christopher “Dudus” Coke, has continued for five days. Residents of Tivoli Gardens, Jamaica’s first public housing development and a supposed stronghold of Coke and his supporters, have been turned into prisoners in their own homes as some 2,000 police and soldiers armed with automatic weapons and wearing combat helmets have stormed into the area.

In a call to Jamaica’s News Talk Radio 93FM Wednesday night, two women from the Tivoli Gardens neighborhood said that they were trapped on the floor of their home, without food, electricity or water and terrified of being shot if they raised their heads.

“We’re not animals down here,” one of the women said. “We are humans.”

Residents have reported the security forces firing rocket-propelled grenades and using bulldozers to demolish homes, while the media has raised questions about unexplained explosions in the housing estate.

The security forces have sought to keep a tight lid on the operation, turning away the media at gunpoint. On Wednesday, Jamaica’s independent public defender, Earl Witter, a government official, was allowed into the zone and reported a count of 44 civilians dead.

Hospitals, however, had by Wednesday reported receiving the bodies of 60 civilians, and there were disturbing reports that suggest the real death toll could be significantly higher. Some residents of Tivoli Gardens have reported seeing troops burning corpses on piles of tires. And Kingston’s Mayor Desmond McKenzie announced that he was launching an investigation following a Television Jamaica report Wednesday night showing police carrying coffins to a local cemetery for unauthorized burials.

McKenzie said he had demanded explanations from the chiefs of the army and the police. “I’m hoping that I will be given an answer, and the country will be given an answer that the people of West Kingston who have died under tragic circumstances are not being thrown into the ground just like that,” the mayor said.

Jamaica’s daily Gleaner reported Thursday that the carnage had “put morgues on the brink of overflowing.” Agence-France Presse reported Wednesday that the morgue at one of the major Kingston hospitals had received three truckloads of bodies, including that of a baby.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry has announced that public hospitals in the capital and surrounding area have suspended all but emergency services until further notice because of the growing number of casualties resulting from the police-army operation.

The countdown to the confrontation began May 17 when Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding announced that, having dropped his nine-month-long opposition to the extradition of Coke, he would order his arrest. …

The accused drug lord has a significant base of support in the poor inner-city neighborhoods, where he has used his wealth and political connections to secure government contracts and jobs, while dispensing limited forms of social assistance not otherwise available.

Those political connections are at the center of Jamaica’s present crisis. Prime Minister Golding is the representative in parliament for the same Tivoli Gardens district, a seat he inherited from the previous long-time leader of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party, Edward Seaga.

It was Seaga who cemented the hold of the JLP and the drug gangsters over Tivoli Gardens. In 1980, he relied on these elements as shock troops in violent elections that claimed some 800 lives and brought his party to power through the defeat of the People’s National Party of Michael Manley. …

Seaga tailored Jamaican policy to the demands of Washington, jettisoning the left-nationalist rhetoric of Manley. He became a key supporter of the Reagan administration’s Caribbean Basin Initiative, broke off relations with Cuba and supported the 1983 US invasion of Grenada.

The connections between Golding and Coke surfaced earlier this month, as questions arose about government payments to a high-powered US lobbying firm headed by Charles Mannatt, the former chairman of the Democratic Party and reported confidante of President Barack Obama.

Mannatt was apparently hired to lobby against the extradition order against Coke, meeting with administration officials to argue that the accused drug lord was in fact a legitimate businessman and philanthropist.

While first acknowledging that the government had paid for Mannatt’s services, Golding later claimed that lobbying bills were footed by the JLP.

In what appears to be a ratcheting up of US pressure on Golding, ABC News reported Wednesday that the prime minister had been named in US court documents as a “known criminal affiliate” of Coke. According to the ABC report, US officials cited wiretapped telephone conversations between the Jamaican leader and the accused drug trafficker.

Meanwhile, the London daily Independent reported that Coke’s gang, the so-called Shower Posse—so named for the quantity of bullets it unleashes in confrontations with its rivals—was in the direct employ of the JLP and used to turn out the vote in the district during elections.

By Casey Gane-McCalla at News One for Black America:

The Jamaican police bare a lot of responsibility for the violence. Police in Jamaica have a reputation for killing civilians and brutality. This is one of the reasons for the tense relationship between the police in Jamaica and people in the Garrisons.

The Jamaican Labour Party has protected and empowered Dudus for years, as they did his father Lester Coke, also know as Jim Brown. Still the opposition party, the People’s National Party has its connections to gangsters and garrisons too.

America has its own role in the violence going on in Jamaica. It was the U.S. who indicted Dudus on criminal charges and demanded that Jamaica arrest him. The USA supported, trained and armed the Shower Posse (which Dudus now heads) to help the JLP fight the PNP in the seventies and eighties, when Jamaica was developing a relationship with Cuba. In many ways the U.S.A. is responsible for Tivoli Gardens becoming the stronghold it is today and Dons like Dudus being as powerful as they are. The guns that are being used by the criminals are being shipped from the US and the US is supplying the Jamaican police with weapons as well. Dudus is rich because of Americans buying drugs not Jamaicans.

Critics: Rising Jamaican Death Toll Rooted in So-Called “War on Drugs”: here.

Amnesty called on the Jamaican government today to seriously investigate human rights abuses allegedly committed during last year’s bloody operation to catch a reputed drug lord: here.

UN: No torture in Jamaica – police murder suspects straight away! (par 13, US embassy cable): here.

Over the past decades, civil libertarians have warned that right-wing politicians were moving towards an all-embracing police state, using the media-generated panics of the “War on Drugs” and the “War on Terror” as their stalking horses: here.

9 thoughts on “Jamaican ‘war on drugs’ bloodbath

  1. Amnesty calls for full investigation into West Kgn deaths

    Jamaica Observer

    Thursday, May 27, 2010

    HUMAN rights group Amnesty International has called for a thorough investigation into the deaths of those killed in the security operation to arrest Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke.

    In a release today, Amnesty said while the Jamaican police have a duty to maintain law and order, the attribution of extraordinary powers to the security forces may lead to human rights violations.

    “Security forces have so far accounted for four firearms seized, quite a low number compared with the number of people killed,” Amnesty said.

    The group said the human rights record of the police force in Jamaica is dire.

    “Every year the police are responsible for a high number of killings. Evidence indicates that many of these killings are unlawful,” said Kerrie Howard, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Americas programme

    “In this context, residents of the affected areas, including those not involved in the armed confrontation, may become victims of abuses by the security forces. Only an impartial and thorough investigation of every death or injury caused by the use of force will enable the facts to be established regarding possible unlawful killings or extra-judiciary executions.”



  2. ‘Dudus’ hunt fuels anger in slums

    Jamaica: Slum dwellers seethed with anger on Friday as soldiers and police pressed on with house-to-house searches for alleged drug dealer Christopher “Dudus” Coke, with the death toll rising but no trace of “Dudus.”

    Jamaican police have said that at least 73 bodies have been found in morgues after their fruitless four-day-old assault in Kingston.

    A woman in the Tivoli Gardens neighbourhood shouted: “They kill my baby pickney,” while standing near a large mural showing Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who Mr Coke helped to win elected office.



  3. New curfews after 10 killed

    Jamaica: Police commanders in Kingston have imposed new curfews in city’s western shanty towns after 10 people were killed in shootouts with police.

    Residents in four neighbourhoods, including Spanish Town city, were ordered to stay in their homes after huge gun battles rocked the streets, leaving men, women and an 11-year-old girl dead.

    The renewed violence in the Caribbean island’s capital comes as a state of emergency was lifted following a near all-out war between the police, military and a drug gang led by Christopher Coke that left 76 people dead this summer.



  4. Deaths spark heavy crackdown

    JAMAICA: Security personnel armed with M16s and machine guns manned roadblocks and detained dozens of young men on Thursday in a Jamaican ghetto.

    The crackdown follows the deaths of a 13-year-old girl, two elderly men and three others who were killed during reported shootouts between police and gunmen.

    Residents of the Denham Town slum in West Kingston blame officers for Monday’s killings and the area has been under curfew amid an ongoing security operation to seize illegal guns and fugitives.

    Human rights groups have accused police of trigger-happy tactics across Jamaica causing 45 deaths in just the first 10 weeks of the year. A total of 21 people were killed by police in the first six days of March.



  5. Protesters demand inquiry into 2010 raid

    Thursday 21 March 2013

    Residents of a battle-scarred slum once controlled by Jamaica’s biggest underworld boss rallied on Wednesday to demand accountability and justice for a deadly 2010 raid into their community.

    Around 100 demonstrators marched to Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller’s offices.

    A handful of organisers and residents delivered a petition calling for an international inquiry into the raid.

    Most were from Tivoli Gardens, a public housing complex in West Kingston where at least 73 civilians were killed when security forces raided it during a state of emergency.

    Organiser Lloyd D’Aguilar of the Tivoli Committee and the Campaign for Social and Economic Justice said the demonstrators wanted a response within 30 days.

    Lawyer Hannah Harris-Barrington said she hoped to involve the United Nations and international courts because of “a major cover-up” being perpetrated in Jamaica.

    “People are dead and missing,” she told the rally.

    “We need international attention now because otherwise this is going to happen again.”



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