Christopher “Dudus” Coke is a man worth watching. Coke is a Kingston, Jamaica resident who caused a state of emergency and got the leader of the country’s ruling party to put his political career and reputation on the line to keep him out of American courts. The arrest of Christopher Coke was an urban spectacle, and his trial has the potential to revel a lot about American and Jamaican officials’ drug trade dealings. If Coke sings much may be told about Jamaican and American officials’ involvement in illegal activities from the Caribbean to North America to England.
The case is an example of the “strong arm” of the United States government and its practices in the drug trade. The US justice department had the alleged leader of the notorious Shower Posse gang on a "world’s most dangerous" list, while a former Jamaican national security minister describes him as “probably the country’s most powerful man”. The role and record of “Dudus” is result of alliances between U.S. imperialism and the predominately-Black island’s governing bourgeoisie. Coke gained his mythical status as a linkage between Jamaica’s working class elements and the political ruling class elite that comprises the: Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) and the People’s National Party (PNP).
Many Jamaicans say that “if Christopher Coke is a criminal, then so are the Jamaican ruling parties and the U.S. government” who introduced drugs and gun violence in poor community districts of Jamaica during the 1970s and 80s. Dudicus Coke’s trial threatens to expose corruption that has been intrinsic to Jamaican politics for decades and bring to light the length to which criminal gangs and both local parties are linked.
Last August, the US authorities charged Coke with organizing deals of marijuana and crack cocaine, and funnelling the profits along with weapons back to Jamaica. Mr Coke faces life in prison if found guilty. Reports call it "guns for ganja" trade and labels the island "the Caribbean’s largest source of marijuana" for US users and "a transit point for cocaine trafficked from South America,"
According to Jamaican media, Mr Coke is more like a "godfather" to Kingston residents – a benefactor providing the means for food and schooling. Over the years, Jamaica’s governments created the environment in which such political entities could flourish. Gang control is at its most pervasive in communities entirely under the control of one or other of the political parties, known as “garrison communities.” His lawyers call Coke a legitimate businessman and the major shareholder in two successful Jamaican companies, Incomparable Enterprise and Presidential Click. People on the streets of western Kingston call him Presi, Bossy, Shortman or, Dudus. Coke sends their children to school, mediates disputes and gives them employment.
Garrison communities – Tivoli, Trench Town, Jungle, and Fletcher’s Land – are self-governing, politically protected enclaves striated according to party affiliation, dependent on and controlled by "Dons" and their gangs, who are the liaison between the community and political parties. Dons receive the patronage and political protection of party leaders that insulates them from law enforcement. In exchange, they finance political campaigns, deliver votes, and maintain their territories. Dons fill a gap that national and local governments seem unable and unwilling to tackle; and, in turn, benefit enormously from government contracts for construction, transportation and infrastructure as they utilize these legal businesses to launder money.
Though still technically “in charge” of Tivoli Gardens projects, Coke’s wealth enabled him to move to an opulent former plantation home in Red Hills, a cool, peaceful retreat favored by entrepreneurs and politicians. Senior politicians, including Jamaican Prime Minister Golding, have reportedly been electronically intercepted by US surveillance while talking to Coke. Many may testify in favor of Coke. He has been instrumental in resurrecting and restructuring Kingston commerce and ensuring the safety and protection of both vendors and buyers in the island’s capital downtown. Coke’s business transactions and social interactions (such as the popular dancehall event, Passa Passa) are beneficial and cause money flows in to poverty-stricken communities unlikely to benefit from tourist dollars or government subsidies.
(William Reed is available for speaking engagements via BaileyGroup.org)