Leading article: Gang warfare and political failure

Share
Related Topics

It can hardly be considered an ideal outcome of US foreign policy. What is going on in Jamaica at the moment is not far off a civil war, with more than a thousand heavily armed troops and police storming the downtown stronghold of the warlord Christopher "Dudus" Coke. The violence has erupted as the result of an attempt to extradite Mr Coke, whom Washington says is one of the world's most dangerous drug lords, but whom local people regard as a Robin Hood figure who provides them with food, pays for their children to go to school and mediates in their disputes.

For almost a year the Jamaican government of prime minister Bruce Golding has refused to extradite him, fearing that exactly this kind of mayhem would ensue. But a few days ago Mr Golding caved in to pressure from the Obama administration to prove he is serious about combating the drugs trade.

Jamaica is the largest producer of marijuana in the region and a conduit for cocaine. US policy is to choke off the drugs at source. But repeatedly, in Colombia, Mexico and now Jamaica, its clampdowns have only further destabilised unstable countries in an unstable region. The Americans would be better trying to staunch their own domestic demand for these drugs.

Jamaica does need to address the powerful organised crime networks which dominate the island. The problem is that they are intimately related to the island's political parties, which created the gangs in the 1970s to rustle up votes. The gangsters have since diversified into drug trafficking but each remains closely tied to a political party. Mr Coke's gang is linked to the governing Labour Party. It has carved out its own fiefdom in West Kingston, which includes Trenchtown, part of the prime minister's own constituency.

Since the end of Michael Manley's experiment with democratic socialism in the 1970s, a deep corruption has grown around this gang/political party nexus. In a nation with a weak civil society, and no regulations on party financing, the links between politics and the gangs have intensified. As government divested itself of its responsibilities to its citizens, many were assumed by warlords like Dudus Coke. The way to remove them is not with inner-city military assaults but with a purging of the corrupt political system. Jamaica is not a failed state so much as failed government. But the way forward is through political reform, re-socialisation and re-education. US-backed violence on the streets is not the way to begin.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Women are less likely to become scientists and engineers  

International Women's Day: How much could be achieved if we scrapped the idea of 'male' jobs?

Anne Richards
Dame Maggie Smith stars in Downtown Abbey as Countess Violet  

We need to see Maggie Smith and Michael Gambon on stage again

David Lister
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable