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The "Dudus" affair
 
Barricades in Tivoli
Standoff between Dudus supporters and the authorities
Worried Jamaicans cannot be blamed for thinking that it's the kind of stalemate that serves to enhance their island's reputation as a violence-prone nation.

There are press reports of people being used as "human shields" around the Tivoli Gardens area of the capital, Kingston, where supporters of community strongman Christopher "Dudus" Coke have vowed to protect him from the law.

A warrant has been issued for Mr Coke, who is wanted by the United States on drug and weapons trafficking charges.

Coke extradition latest
Washington issues travel advisory to American citizens travelling to, or in Jamaica, over the Dudus stand-off
Jamaica police urge Tivoli Gardens and Denham residents to remove barricades erected in a bid to thwart the apprehension of wanted extraditee Christopher 'Dudus' Coke
Jamaica police appeal to Coke's lawyers to surrender the client
Judge to hear challenge to extradition order on 31 May

After months of delay that mushroomed into a controversy that sparked calls for Prime Minister Bruce Golding to step down, the prime minister this week gave the go ahead for "Dudus", a strongman in Mr Golding's own west Kingston constituency, to be extradited to the United States.

But taking such a decision is one thing in the Jamaican context, implementing it apparently quite another.

National Reserve called out

The Jamaica Defence Force has had to call out the National Reserve, after what one newspaper described as "thugs" opening fire on a team of soldiers.

There is now tight security around the Tivoli Gardens area, with residents intent on protecting Christopher Coke and trying to keep him out of reach of the law by erecting barricades.

Ideally, the authorities would want to see Mr Coke turn himself in, to avoid violent confrontation between his supporters and the country's security forces.

Whether that happens, how long the authorities are prepared to wait for it to, how soon they may "storm" Tivoli Gardens to apprehend the suspect, and whether Mr Coke is in fact holed up there - all of that is up in the air at the moment.

Local media reports quote the police as reporting that law-abiding citizens in Tivoli Gardens are being prevented from leaving the area and have had their cellular phones confiscated by criminals.

But some there clearly are backing the man they've dubbed the "president".

Supporting Dudus

"Since yesterday when news emerged that the extradition order had been signed, that community preetty much barriaced itself in," a BBC Caribbean reporter in Kingston said.

One woman was photographed for a local paper holding up a sign saying "leave Dudus alone".

And other defiant Tivoli Gardens residents have called on the authorities to rethink their decision, arguing that the alleged drug lord pays for their children's schooling, and that he has broken no law.

The United States is waiting patiently, as it has for close to a year now, for its extradition request to be honoured to prosecute a man Washington considers one of the world's most wanted drug kingpins.

The Shower Posse gang run by Dudus Coke is said to be responsible for more than 1400 murders in the US.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding
Some analysts say Mr Golding has lost credibility over the controversy

The case nearly took a life of its own in Jamaica when, after much delay and a political and diplomatic firestorm that almost engulfed the prime minister, Mr Golding signed the warrant for Christopher Coke to be sent for trial in the US.

Mr Golding had denied government intervention on behalf of Coke. It later turned out that the ruling party had made the moves to secure a Washington lawfirm to lobby for Coke.

Strongman Coke has ties of loyalty to Prime Minister Golding's Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

Like the main opposition Peoples National Party (PNP), the JLP has been accused of having loose affiliations with gangs dating back to the 1970s when political factions armed gunmen to intimidate election rivals.

Opposition suspicious

The mistrust that has surfaced over the Dudus affair is clearly visible in the local media.

Former National Security Minister Peter Phillips has suggested in the Jamaica Gleaner, that the government may have "prepared the wicket" for Mr Coke's court defence.

Dr Phillips contends that the events leading to the decision to extradite the alleged drug lord "may be part of a wider plot to prevent Coke from being extradited".

Christopher Coke is fighting the extradition proceedings in court, and Dr Phillips has warned that the manner in which the matter has been handled has the potential of "prejudicing the court hearing".

 
 
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