Jamaica's prime minister said tonight he will allow the extradition of a man wanted by the U.S. on drug and arms trafficking charges, ending
a nine-month standoff that strained relations with Washington.
The reversal by Prime Minister Bruce Golding came after mounting public discontent over his opposition to sending Christopher "Dudus"
Coke to the U.S., a stand that raised questions about the reputed drug
kingpin's ties to the governing party.
The move also set up the challenge of arresting Coke, who allegedly controls a band of gunmen in the capital's barricaded Tivoli Gardens
area. The U.S. Justice Department lists Coke as one of the world's most
dangerous drug lords.
As rumors of the government's decision spread before the official announcement, the streets of downtown Kingston emptied as businesses and
government agencies closed early out of fear of violence.
Coke has ties of loyalty to the Jamaica Labor Party and holds significant sway over the west Kingston area represented in parliament
by Golding, who stonewalled the extradition request for months with
claims that the U.S. indictment relied on illegal wiretap evidence.
In a nationally televised address tonight, Golding said his party had become improperly involved in the dispute and expressed remorse for his
handling of the case.
"This matter of the extradition has consumed too much of our energies and attention and has led to a virtual paralysis that must be broken,"
he said. "The minister of justice, in consideration of all the factors,
will sign the authorization for the extradition process to commence."
Golding did not indicate how long it would take before security forces move on Coke.
The prime minister's handling of the case, in particular his authorization of a U.S. firm to lobby Washington to drop the request,
provoked an outcry that threatened his political career. With opposition
parties and public sector groups calling for his resignation, the
governing party vouched for him following a high-level conference over
Golding's opposition to the extradition strained relations with the United States, which questioned the Caribbean island's reliability as an
ally in the fight against trafficking in a State Department report
earlier this year.
Coke represents a Jamaican tradition of "community dons" with ties to political parties that dates back to the 1970s, when political factions
provided arms to gangs that helped rally votes during elections.
Coke's father was Lester Lloyd Coke, better known as Jim Brown, a leader of the Shower Posse during the 1980s cocaine wars. U.S.
prosecutors say Christopher Coke took over the organization after his
father died in a 1991 prison fire while awaiting extradition to the
Under the younger Coke's direction, Shower Posse members have sold marijuana and crack cocaine in the New York area and elsewhere and
funneled profits back to him, U.S. authorities allege. He faces life in
prison if convicted on charges filed against him in New York.
Source: The Associated Press