What led to Jamaica’s violence?

U.S. newspaper coverage has linked violent clashes in Kingston, Jamaica, to the recent decision by Prime Minister Bruce Golding to cooperate with U.S. demands for the extradition of drug lord Christopher Coke — a surprising about-face for the prime minister, who initially resisted compliance with the American request. An editorial in the Jamaica Observer provides ...

Anthony FOSTER/AFP/Getty Images
Anthony FOSTER/AFP/Getty Images
Anthony FOSTER/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. newspaper coverage has linked violent clashes in Kingston, Jamaica, to the recent decision by Prime Minister Bruce Golding to cooperate with U.S. demands for the extradition of drug lord Christopher Coke -- a surprising about-face for the prime minister, who initially resisted compliance with the American request. An editorial in the Jamaica Observer provides a broader explanation, portraying this week's violence as the inevitable result of a long-simmering relationship between Kingston's political leaders and its drug kingpins:

"If we are to be brutally honest with ourselves, we must admit that we have been laying the foundation for yesterday's events for a long time. We have, over the years, elected governments that are more concerned with the retention of power than with upholding the principles of truth and justice.

For a long time we have been heading for an explosion as those who have held the reins of government have given succour to criminals in their blinkered thirst for political power."

U.S. newspaper coverage has linked violent clashes in Kingston, Jamaica, to the recent decision by Prime Minister Bruce Golding to cooperate with U.S. demands for the extradition of drug lord Christopher Coke — a surprising about-face for the prime minister, who initially resisted compliance with the American request. An editorial in the Jamaica Observer provides a broader explanation, portraying this week’s violence as the inevitable result of a long-simmering relationship between Kingston’s political leaders and its drug kingpins:

"If we are to be brutally honest with ourselves, we must admit that we have been laying the foundation for yesterday’s events for a long time. We have, over the years, elected governments that are more concerned with the retention of power than with upholding the principles of truth and justice.

For a long time we have been heading for an explosion as those who have held the reins of government have given succour to criminals in their blinkered thirst for political power."

Casualties may continue to climb (Jamaican public defender Earl Witter conceded, "Frankly, I expect the number [of dead] to rise"), but some Jamaicans are already looking ahead to a nonviolent response to the country’s domestic instability. The Observer supplemented its fatalistic analysis of Jamaica’s political past with a proactive plan for the future, proposing the creation of a Commission of Enquiry to investigate the lapses in policy and security that may have led to the current unraveling.  

Clare Sestanovich and Sylvie Stein are researchers at Foreign Policy.

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