The Obama administration is vexed that 'mutual respect' and 'honest engagement' have failed to persuade Jamaica to extradite an alleged drug kingpin
By David Paulin
It should have been a routine extradition request between countries with friendly relations. Six months ago, the United States asked Jamaica to extradite an alleged drug lord and arms trafficker based in Kingston, the capital. The alleged crime boss, Christopher Michael Coke, 40, is regarded by the U.S. Department of Justice as one of the world's “most dangerous narcotics kingpins.”
Coke – also known as “General,” “President, “Duddus” and "Shortman" -- is as well known to Jamaicans as was crime boss John Gotti to New Yorkers. Ostensibly, Coke is a legitimate businessman. But according to an indictment unsealed last August by the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York, Coke has since the early 1990s led an international crime ring called the "Shower Posse." The group distributes cocaine, marijuana, and crack in New York City and elsewhere, while smuggling arms back to Jamaica, according to the indictment, citing intercepted phone conversations and other evidence.
In Kingston, Coke controls a “garrison community” in the Tivoli Garden's area -- “a barricaded neighborhood guarded by a group of armed gunmen,” said the indictment. “These gunmen act at Coke's direction. Coke arms them with firearms he imports illegally, via a wharf located adjacent to Tivoli Gardens. Coke also distributes firearms to other area leaders of other sections of Kingston, Jamaica.”
Presumably, Jamaica's political leaders would be eager to get rid of Coke. After all, they're ostensibly committed to combating the international war on drugs. Jamaica's drug trade helps to fuel one of the world's highest murder rates on the island of 2.7 million people.
Yet Jamaica has yet to extradite Coke – and it seems reluctant to do so. The likely reason has been widely discussed in Jamaica's news media and is implicitly acknowledged by U.S. officials: Coke has political ties to Jamaica's ruling Jamaica Labor Party. He is part of what might be called Jamaica's thug culture. That culture, according to a State Department report on the international drug trade, has compromised elected officials, the police, and legitimate businesses.
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