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Jamaica attacks: a legacy of ties between politicians and gangs

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Most of the fighting has been in and around the Shower Posse stronghold of Tivoli Gardens, one of Kingston's so-called garrison communities, but has also involved an attack on a downtown Kingston police station by what Jamaican authorities said were Coke loyalists from the Shower Posse (so-named when it was founded roughly 30 years ago because it "rained bullets" on its enemies). Coke is believed to be holed up in Tivoli.

Jamaica's garrisons emerged in the 1970s when toughs in Kingston's poorest neighborhoods started turning out votes for one of Jamaica's two main political parties -- the People's National Party (PNP) or Mr. Golding's ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). They were given weapons and a free hand to run protection rackets in exchange, according to Laurie Gunst's 1996 book "Born Fi' Dead," about the rise of Jamaica's posses.

The Shower Posse in Tivoli has always delivered votes for the JLP, which is also part of Golding's parliamentary constituency. But when the cocaine transhipment business boomed in the late 70's and 80's, many gang leaders found they needed their political protectors less and less, the Shower Posse perhaps first among them. Money from eager US cocaine and crack consumers was pouring home, as were American guns purchased by gang associates living in the US. Many of the garrison leaders, known locally as "dons," became major power brokers in their own right.

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