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Jamaica: State of Emergency

Things are starting to unravel in Jamaica, as the drug money link between dons and politicians, starts to get the media attention it deserves.

The United States want Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke – the notorious don man of Tivoli Gardens, West Kingston for trafficking drugs and guns. But will the ruling Jamaica Labour Party give him up?

These were the words of blogger Jamaica Salt, posted way back in September 2009. A little over 8 months later, after what seemed like many attempts to delay the inevitable, Prime Minister Bruce Golding “informed the nation that Justice Minister, Dorothy Lightbourne, [would] sign the extradition request for Tivoli strongman, Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke.”

From the moment the warrant was signed, it appeared that law and order began to unravel. Blogger Annie Paul, who has been following the extradition case with great interest, explained it this way on Twitter this morning:

The pact between the criminals and the state has been broken, we are being shown the consequences of that rupture…

Home-made barricades in West Kingston. By bbcworldservice, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

The country's capital, Kingston, is under a state of emergency that is expected to last for at least a month; updates on Twitter speak of instances looting and shootouts with police:

@marxshields: DownTown Kgn. Shops & businesses attacked & looted. Owners and security companies complaining that JCF/JDF presence not there. Whats goinon?

@ChrysalisCEO: Attack on State – Police stations set ablaze Cop shot, civilian slain http://bit.ly/c2SbFb (RT @JamaicaGleaner) #jamaica #stateofemergency

@ChrysalisCEO: @nikkirich61 it was just reported on CVM that 2 cops have died; 6 injured – Same said Nationwide.

Some Jamaicans can hardly believe the violence that is happening around them. @wadablood tweets:

Jah kno wake up to the sounds of gunshot and hellicopter a weh mi deh middle east cuz a cnt jamaica this

Stunner says:

As the pursu[it] of the wanted Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke intensifies, the tension and resulting seemingly inevitable civil unrest and bloodshed seems more of a reality. As I type this post I can even hear the sounds of helicopters flying in the distance, a surreal confirmation of the reality gripping this city, this country.

Army vehicle on the streets of West Kingston. By bbcworldservice, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

At the same time, Jamaicans are appealing to their compatriots to avoid rumour-mongering, since making the situation appear worse than it is could affect the country's international reputation:

@kelliemagnus: Thumbs up to citizen journalism. Thumbs down to reckless gossip. Spreading panic does not help. Please tweet responsibly.

@SiliconCaribe: One thing I ask all my Jamaicans on Twitter to do, be responsible when retweeting info. Let's not add any fuel to the fire. #jamaica

@SiliconCaribe: @ONTHEGROUNDREPORT-WISH you wud not broadcast UNCONFIRMED REPORTS.This leads to unnecessary panic! Country first or just building a fan base

The community at the center of the violence is the Dudus-controlled Tivoli Gardens, which Letter From Jamaica describes as:

…an extraordinary place: on one hand the community is home to probably Jamaica's most secure street party in ‘Passa Passa'; and on the other hand there is its fearsome reputation as the ‘Mother of all Garrisons’.

Tivoli long ago become uncomfortably powerful for the politicians who, working hand-in-hand with the gangs, socially engineered Jamaica's garrison communities: votes and power for the Members of Parliament; guns, patronage and immunity for the dons.

But despite police appeals for cooperation, certain “criminal elements” from the area first began blocking roads as a sign of protest; the violence escalated from there. Long Bench puts it plainly: “Tivoli Gardens has declared war against the state”, but also lays blame squarely at the feet of the government, commenting on the situation in Jamaican dialect:

dem bun dung police station..

helicopter and all a dem fufool police an’ souljah a run go a Tivoli fi meet dem Waterloo…

Crime Minister Golding come pon TV a twis’ up im mout’ an a talk like seh im nuh responsible fi wha’ deh gwa’an…

What an embarassment!

What a spectacle of incompetence and sheggery!

But, if ah so it fi go so di whole na’asy govament bwile can bus, den a so it affi go…

Twitter users also commented on the role politicians from both parties have played in creating the current impasse:

@catx82: Its not enough2call #Dudus a drug baron then ppl who don't know the situation underestimate the problem #Jamaica It's a politcal problem too

@strudelcuddy: I want #Dudus to give himself up and rat out all the criminals infesting Gordon House [official meeting place of Jamaica's government]. Mass resignation ftw!

@melissajon: …Some level of stability and security that the #Jamaican gov't has not provided for them. To some #Dudus has more power than PM Golding

Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding addresses the nation. By bbcworldservice, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

Still, the government attempted to assuage the situation by appealing for calm – Girl With a Purpose posts the main points of last night's Prime Ministerial address to the nation here. She adds as an update:

The buses that have been sent to pick up the law-abiding residents of Western Kingston are reportedly empty.

(There is serious doubt that these people would have been able to escape from Western Kingston).

There is reportedly no light (power) in Western Kingston.

Gunfire has reportedly spread to Cross Roads.

While bloggers around the region long to see peace restored in Jamaica, diaspora blogger Labrish muses:

The problems go way back. If you arm ghettos with guns for decades, using them to be the deliverers of votes in your pursuit of political power, then you will have generations growing up knowing nothing other than the gun. You will have what is happening in Jamaica today. This cartoon today in the Observer shows a sad reality of who is partly responsible for this. Sadly, this news overshadows some positive news of peace being made between some formerly rival communities.

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