I’m Sure Gangs’ Political Power Is Not Unique to Jamaica

Associated Press writer David Mcfadden reports from Jamaica today that public outrage is pressuring Prime Minister Bruce Golding to end the historic links between politicians and the gangs.

“The political parties built the gangs,” McFadden writes. “Dons received government contracts, and in exchange delivered the votes of their people.”

He quotes Joseph Matalon, head of the island’s private sector group, as saying that “for years, citizens turned a blind eye to escalating criminal violence, accepting as a part of the status quo the acknowledged links between our political actors and organized crime elements.”

The ugly alliance between political leaders and the gangs was spotlighted when the Jamaican government yielded to U.S. requests and attempted to extradite a Jamaican gang leader charged with international drug dealing and gun running.

Jamaican “don” Michael Christopher (Dudus) Coke is alleged to be the leader of the Shower Posse gang in America.  The United States has been demanding his extradition from Jamaica. Prime Minister Golding resisted at first (allegedly because of their political ties) but eventually gave in and sent police to arrest Coke. The “don’s” supporters attacked the police and the resulting violence left 73 people dead. Seven hundred people were detained. Dudus remains at large.

You might be wondering how Jamaicans could tolerate an alliance between politicians and gang leaders. It certainly looks bizarre.

But I suspect the same kind of thing goes on all over the world. It’s just more obvious in a small country like Jamaica.

The connection between the drug cartels and Mexican politicians is no secret, for example. And during Prohibition, gangsters were openly linked to political figures in America. I bet things haven’t changed over the years.

My guess is that the gangs and the politicians have become more skilled at concealing their links. And, of course, America is so big that it’s almost impossible to figure out what’s really going on.

But it stands to reason that organized crime has not bowed out of American politics. Money is the real source of political power. And the gangs certainly have a lot of money. If you were a mobster, wouldn’t you use some of that money to buy political power?

A major source of the outlaws’ enormous wealth is the international trade in illicit drugs. Legalizing recreational drug use and bringing these drugs under government control would seem to be one way of diminishing the gangsters’ wealth – and power.

When I was in Jamaica during the Seventies, I saw ganja being cultivated openly. Researching a story for the Daily News, I had only to go a short distance into the mountains to find acres and acres of the illegal weed. The farmers were even using heavy machinery, which you could hear miles away.

To keep the U.S. happy, the Jamaican government and the ganja growers would occasionally get together and stage a raid, in which fields of marijuana were burned. I don’t recall anyone going to prison. I guess the growers weren’t there when their farms were raided.

And I saw people smoking the stuff all over Kingston without any apparent interest on the part of the police.

In Toronto, I would look out my window at Harbourfront and see the post office workers sitting on the grass by the side of the road, enjoying a few tokes during their break.

And I am sure the same thing goes on all over Canada and America – probably throughout most of the world.

It would be laughable to suggest that the recreational use of marijuana could be stamped out at this point.

So why are recreational drugs still illegal?

Ask the politicians. They know why.

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gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com

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