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    September 22

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Politics, violence in Tivoli

Horace Campbell,

Added 28 June 2010

PART TWO Despite espousing a brand of democratic socialism, Michael Manley did not break the relationship between political enforcers and the political parties.In fact, he surrounded himself with notorious gunmen such as Burry Boy, and the militarisation of politics intensified in this period. If Manley did not take seriously his own rhetoric about democratic socialism, the United States government and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) were sufficiently unnerved by the radicalisation of the Jamaican society under the People’s National Party (PNP) leadership to embark on wholesale destabilisation of Jamaica.  The whole world was now paying attention to the leftward turn of Jamaica, and this turn to peace and justice was most manifest in the lyrics of reggae artistes in the 1970s.Bob Marley also became a victim of the indiscriminate violence in 1976 when he offered a free concert in the midst of the CIA -inspired violence and killings in Jamaica. Peter Tosh was also consumed by this violence and met an early end.It was at this time that the CIA found a ready pool of gunmen and political contractors who were already ensconced in Tivoli Gardens. Lester Coke, also known as Jim Brown, father of Christopher “Dudus” Coke, was one of the major enforcers who benefited from the CIA relationship with the party headed by Edward Seaga. The 1980 elections were one of the bloodiest in the history of Jamaica with hundreds dead and thousands dispersed. This counter-revolutionary phase reached new levels in the Caribbean as the CIA supported the Contras in Nicaragua, the militarists in El Salvador and the conservative military forces throughout the region.It was in this period that Walter Rodney was assassinated in Guyana and Archbishop Romero was assassinated in San Salvador. Manley was defeated in the elections of 1980.When Seaga became prime minister in 1980, the society was deployed at the service of the US counter-revolution in the region. It was not by chance that the prime minister of Jamaica was at the forefront of those giving military, diplomatic and political cover for the US invasion of Grenada in 1983. In order to establish a firm entrepreneurial basis for the distribution of cocaine in the Caribbean, the forces of Lester Coke organised the Shower Posse in Tivoli with a worldwide reach into North America, Europe and other parts of the Caribbean.The gang got its name from the JLP election slogan Shower, which was a response to the PNP’s Power that was coined from Manley’s Power For The People slogan in the 1970s.Lester Coke, who had succeeded Claude Massop as the top gun of Tivoli, built the Shower Posse and exploited the cocaine trade to amass great wealth and opulence.He managed the Jamaican operations from the political constituency of Seaga. So lucrative was the business of cocaine and guns that there was an economic boom in the society with the establishment of new banks and the growth of the Cayman Islands as a major offshore banking site to launder the billions of dollars of the cocaine business.  The Shower Posse boomed in this period and with the boom was an escalation with the levels of violence inside and outside Jamaica. One book entitled, Born Fe Dead, chronicled the savagery of this gang of mobsters tied to the ruling political party in Jamaica. The Jamaican Posses became notorious enough to be featured on the television programme American Gangster. But this gangsterism was not confined to the Americas. The business was lucrative enough to lure Israeli mobsters into this booming business.At this period International Lease Financing Corp (ILFC), the Los Angeles-based aircraft leasing division of AIG, was the biggest force in the leasing of planes. AIG worked closely with the US intelligence services to the point where the CEO of AIG was once under consideration to become the Director of the CIA.While Eli Tisona was functioning as an “agricultural expert” in Jamaica, Lester Coke was growing in power inside the constituency of the prime minister. The dons became the effective government as most of these taxes were used to fund the poor and send their children to school, feed them and assist in dealing with health matters and the funerals of old people.Dons such as Lester Coke did not depend on elections for their power and after Seaga was defeated in the 1989 elections, Coke was emerging to be more powerful than the former prime minister in his own constituency, Tivoli.He was operating Tivoli as a state within a state beyond the reach of the official forces of the Jamaican government. In fact, the business of cocaine was so lucrative that the Coke connections interpenetrated all levels of commerce, banking, the legal community, the media, the clergy as well as the political parties.  With unmatched resources, Lester Coke started to act as though he was above all laws, and beyond the reach of justice. After a series of high profile killings in the early 1990s, the US sought to extradite Lester Coke to the United States. Coke was not to know that he was expendable. When he realised this and was ready to expose the vast web of guns, banks politicians and cocaine, he died mysteriously in a fire in police custody while awaiting extradition.Final part tomorrow.Horace G. Campbell, born in Jamaica  is Professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University in Syracuse New York.

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