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Jamaica: Background and U.S. Relations

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Congressional rept.

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The Caribbean island-nation of Jamaica has had a relatively stable parliamentary political system stemming from its history of British colonial rule. Current Prime Minister Bruce Golding of the Jamaica Labour Party was elected in September 2007 when his party defeated the long-ruling Peoples National Party led by then-Prime Minister Portia Simpson. In late May 2010, however, Jamaicas stability was challenged after Prime Minister Golding agreed to extradite to the United States an at-large alleged drug kingpin and gang leader, Christopher Coke. The Jamaican government deployed police and soldiers seeking to execute a warrant for Coke, but his armed supporters erected barricades and roadblocks to battle the security forces. In the ensuing violence, 76 people were killed, including two policemen and a soldier. Human rights organizations have called on the government to conduct a thorough investigation into the killings, especially since Jamaicas police forces have been criticized for many years for extrajudicial killings and the indiscriminate use of force. Coke was ultimately captured and extradited to New York in late June 2010 to face drug and weapons trafficking charges. High rates of crime and violence have plagued Jamaica for many years. In the 1970s and 1980s there was a high level of politically motivated violence when political parties became allied with armed gangs to deliver votes at election time. Jamaicas gangs initially were involved in the trafficking of marijuana in the 1970s Jamaica is the Caribbeans largest producer and exporter of marijuana, but in the mid-1980s became involved in cocaine trafficking, with Jamaica used as a transit country, as well as weapons trafficking. Since the 1990s, much of the violent crime in the country has been associated with this drug trafficking and related intra-gang and internal gang feuds. Jamaicas challenges include bringing down the high levels of gang violence, reforming the police and justice system to pre

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  • Government and Political Science

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