Coke controls the garrison of Tivoli Gardens, which supports the ruling Jamaican Labour Party and current Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who represents Tivoli and the rest of West Kingston. Mr. Golding had resisted US demands to extradite Coke until this week. The Gleaner, Jamaica's leading daily newspaper, described Tivoli on Tuesday as "the mini-republic of a reputed crime overlord" guarded by "heavily armed thugs."
While the immediate priority is to calm rising tensions, the long-term economic aftermath could be a bigger blow, as tourists and foreign investors are scared off.
“Jamaica is in a particularly vulnerable situation,” says David Westbrook, a law professor at SUNY Buffalo who recently visited Jamaica to assess the economy. “The Jamaican economy has been deteriorating, with brief interludes of growth, for over 30 years. … Jamaica has been caught in a series of vicious circles for years; the current violence exacerbates existing dynamics."
Overnight, Jamaican soldiers assaulted Tivoli. The Gleaner reported three soldiers killed and 23 injured in the fighting. It said that residents in Tivoli reported dead gangsters as well, but didn't have casualty figures. Fighting that started in West Kingston spread to downtown, where police and soldiers repelled an attack by militants allegedly aligned with Coke on the Central Police Station. Local television showed a virtual ghost town in Kingston.
The government declared a state of emergency Sunday in parts of the capital, and Golding said the government would take “strong and decisive action” to quell the violence. The emergency decree is to last a month. The government has asked Coke to surrender and face drug- and gun-trafficking charges in the US.
Golding said the uprising will be pivotal in the nation's history. "This will be a turning point for us as a nation to confront the powers of evil that has penalized the society and earned us the unenviable label as one of the murder capitals of the world," he said.