During the 1970s Washington targeted the Manley government in Jamaica. Besides "putting the squeeze on the economy," as Manley himself described it, a Washington-backed campaign left over 750 people, mostly young, dead. With the country gripped by economic instability and violence, Manley lost the 1980 election to Edward Seaga, head of the conservative, right-wing Jamaica Labor Party.
Marcus Mosiah Garvey, a black activist and labor leader, founded one of Jamaica's first political parties in 1929 and a workers association in the early 1930s. The Ras Taffari brotherhood (commonly called the Rastafarians--see Glossary), which in 1935 hailed Ethiopia's emperor Haile Selassie as its god (Jah), owed its origins to the cultivation of self-confidence and black pride promoted by Garvey and his black nationalist movement.
The rise of nationalism, as distinct from island identification or desire for self-determination, is generally dated to the 1938 labor riots that affected both Jamaica and the islands of the Eastern Caribbean. William Alexander Bustamante, a moneylender in the capital city of Kingston, captured the imagination of the black masses with his messianic personality, even though he himself was light-skinned, affluent, and aristocratic. Bustamante had political ambitions, and in 1942, while incarcerated, he founded a political party to rival the PNP, called the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). The new party, whose leaders were of a lower class than those of the PNP, was supported by conservative businessmen.
A distant cousin of Bustamante's, Norman W. Manley, concluded as a result of the 1938 riots that the real basis for national unity in Jamaica lay in the masses. Unlike the union-oriented Bustamante, however, Manley was more interested in access to control over state power and political rights for the masses. On September 18, 1938, he inaugurated the People's National Party (PNP). The PNP adopted a socialist ideology in 1940 and later joined the Socialist International, allying itself formally with the social democratic parties of Western Europe. Guided by socialist principles, Manley was not a doctrinaire socialist.
A review of political dynamics in independent Jamaica can begin in 1965, when illness forced Prime Minister Bustamante, one of Jamaica's two founding fathers, to resign from politics. Sir Donald Sangster took over as acting prime minister and later became prime minister as a result of the narrow JLP victory in the February 1967 elections. He died suddenly two months later, however, and Hugh Shearer, the BITU president, succeeded him on April 12. The Shearer government was known for its weak management, factionalism, and corruption.
After Norman Manley's death in 1969, the JLP and PNP evolved along increasingly divergent lines. Beginning in 1970, the JLP's identification with domestic and foreign business interests became increasingly evident. After Manley died, his son Michael, a Third World-oriented social democrat, succeeded him as PNP leader and began to revive the party's socialist heritage. Michael Manley, who had been was educated at Jamaica College and the London School of Economics, worked as a journalist and trade unionist (1952-72). Eloquent, tall and charismatic, he defeated Shearer impressively in the February 1972 election, winning 56 percent of the popular vote, which gave the PNP thirty-six of the fifty-three House seats. Manley, who represented Central Kingston, won support not only from the lower classes, including the Rastafarians, but also from middle and business classes disenchanted with the Shearer government.
As socialist prime minister of Jamaica from 1972 to 1980, Manley was a new Third World hope: son and political heir of a National Hero; a charismatic personality committed to discovering for Jamaica an alternative to either Puerto Rican-style economic development or Cuban-type social revolution. This "Third Path" would be independent, egalitarian, and root-and-branch democratic.
Manley's PNP won the 1972 election on a Rastafarian-influenced swing vote of 8 percent. During the 1972 election campaign, Manley had tried to change his party's image by evoking the memory of Marcus Garvey, using symbols appealing to the Rastafarians, and associating with their leader, Claudius Henry. Manley also had appeared in public with an ornamental "rod of correction" reputedly given him by Haile Selassie I. Manley's informal dress and the PNP's imaginative use of two features of Rastafarian culture-- creole dialect and reggae music--in the 1972 campaign were designed to dispel fears of elitism and woo the votes of those who had disparaged Norman Manley's facility with the English language.
During Michael Manley's terms as prime minister (1972-80), the PNP aligned itself with socialist and "anti-imperialist" forces throughout the world. Thus, for the first time, political divisions within Jamaica reflected the East-West conflict. Manley's PNP did not publicly announce its resurrected goal of "democratic socialism" until the fall of 1974, on the occasion of a state visit to Jamaica by Tanzania's socialist president Julius K. Nyerere. In addition to redirecting the PNP along these lines, Manley began building a mass party, with emphasis on political mobilization.
Manley's populist policies gave impetus to a shift, begun with independence, of many more dark-skinned middle-class Jamaicans moving upward into political and social prominence, taking over political and civil service positions from the old white elite. Prior to independence, most top leaders had Anglo-European life- styles and disdained many aspects of Jamaican and West Indian culture. By the 1970s, most Jamaican leaders preferred life-styles that identified them more closely with local culture.
The December 1976 elections witnessed major realignments in class voting for the two parties, as well as unprecedented political violence and polarization on ideological and policy issues. The support of manual wage laborers and the unemployed resulted in another sweeping victory in the elections for the PNP; the party won 57 percent of the vote and forty-seven of sixty House seats. The PNP was also aided by the lowering of the voting age from twenty-one to eighteen. Despite losing a substantial number of votes among the upper-middle and upper classes as well as among white-collar employees, the PNP retained majority support among these sectors. Many Jamaicans did not share JLP concerns about the direction that the Manley government was taking.
During his second term in office, Manley, having broadened the PNP's electoral base by wooing a number of charismatic leftwing leaders, veered sharply leftward. One of his leftwing cabinet appointees, Donald K. Duncan, headed the new Ministry of National Mobilization, with responsibility for supervising the government's "people's programs" in worker participation in industry and in the "democratization" of education. Despite the efforts of Duncan and others, the PNP left wing never succeeded in radically transforming the polity or economy.
The 1980 election campaign, Jamaica's most bitter and violent, was waged in the context of extreme scarcity of foreign exchange and consequent shortages of all kinds of goods. Two central issues in the campaign were the state of the economy, including the Manley government's relations with the IMF, and the JLP's charges that the Manley government had lost the people's confidence because of its close relations with Cuba. Seaga alleged in particular that the security forces were being subjected to "communist infiltration" and that young "brigadistas" (construction brigade members) who had received vocational training in Cuba were subjected to political indoctrination. By 1980 the majority of Jamaicans regarded the PNP government as incapable of managing the economy or maintaining order in the society. Even the security forces -- fearful of being replaced by Home Guards, Cuban- trained "brigadistas," and "people's militia"--joined the opposition to the government.
In the October 30, 1980 elections, the PNP was unable to withstand the alliance of the private sector, church, security forces, media, intelligentsia, workers, and unemployed. The electorate gave Seaga's JLP a landslide victory; the opposition party won 59 percent of the vote and 51 of 60 seats in the House. Despite the electoral violence, the election, in which a record 86 percent of the voters turned out, was considered one of the fairest and most important in the nation's history. Other than some incidents of fraud and box tampering, the number of contested votes was relatively low.
According to Gary Webb's [not entirely reliable] book, The Dark Alliance, Norman Descoteaux, the CIA station chief in Jamaica began a destabilization program of the Manley government in late 70s. Part of that plan was assassinations, money for the Jamaican Labour Party, labor unrest, bribery and shipping weapons to Manley's opponents, like Lester "Jim Brown" Coke. The "Dark Alliance" story was first published in the San Jose Mercury News, and later ridiculed by the country's largest newspapers and Gary Webb was hung out to dry by his own paper. Author, Daurius Figueira writes in his book, Cocaine And Heroin Trafficking In The Caribbean, "In fact, it meant that illicit drug runners linked to the JLP were integrated into a CIA linked illicit drugs guns and criminal trafficking pipeline." Former CIA agent and arch-critics of the Agency, Philip Agee, said "the CIA was using the JLP as its instrument in the campaign against the Michael Manley government, I'd say most of the violence was coming from the JLP, and behind them was the CIA in terms of getting weapons in and getting money in."
The Jamaican posses, who take their name from western films popular in Jamaica, are among the most violent criminal gangs to confront American law enforcement. Once engaged onlyin marijuana trafficking, by the late 1980s the posses had discovered the lucrative "crack" cocaine market. By converting cocaine to crack and controlling its distribution the posses were able to increase their profits significantly. As a result, the posses amassed immense wealth withina short period of time.
The posses are often confused with a Jamaican religious group knownas Rastafarians, who smoke marijuana as a religious practice. The Rastafarians are followers of the late Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, and have been well known in the Caribbean for about 80 years. Since 1971, law enforcement authorities identified the Rastafarians as being involved in violent crime, some of it related to control of the importation and sale of marijuana. While a number of Rastafarians are posse members, law enforcement officials do not believe that the posses are controlled by the religious group. A religious Rastafarian, Bob Marley infused his songs with a 'positive vibration' and evoked a utopian 'one world, one love'. As the world was shaking off the yoke of colonialism, such hopeful yet steadfast songs energized many. By 1976, reggae fever had swept the United States. Rolling Stone magazine named Bob Marley and the Wailers the 'Band of the Year' and 'Rastaman Vibration' rose to the top of the charts.
In the violent run-up to the 1976 Jamaican elections, Marley organized the 'One Love Peace Concert'. Days before the show, six assailants tried to kill the reggae artist, his wife and his managers. Predictably, some believe it was the CIA-backed JLP that tried to kill him. His concert was scheduled for December 5 after a presidential candidate's election rally, a presidential candidate who happened to be at odds with the US. Some people believe that the assassination attempt was executed by the US government, for fear that Marley's performance would sway the vote. Bob Marley, the undisputed king of reggae music, died of cancer in 1981, aged just 36.
The Renkers posse began as a Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) posse during the 1980 election campaign of Edward Seaga. The Shower posse also worked for the JLP and Seaga, and profits from marijuana sales in Miami and New York enabled the posse to purchase guns for the JLP. In Jamaican politics generally, local members of Parliament often funnel jobs, money, and guns to their constituents through gangs. In addition, police operate "eradication squads" for political objectives. In the United States, Jamaican posses changed from primarily political gangs to cocaine syndicates as well.
The posse concept, which originated in the ghettos of Kingston, Jamaica, spread internationally, with posses based in New York City and other major U.S. cities. Posses have grown from small marijuana distributors to become nationwide distributors of cocaine/crack. In addition to cocaine/crack distribution, posses engage in money laundering, firearms trafficking, fraud, robberies, kidnaping, and homicides. Posses are characterized by an unprecedented willingness to use violence in all of their activities. By 1990 law enforcement officials had identified 40 posses operating within the United States, with an estimated membership in the thousands. New York City is the hub of activity for most Jamaican posse members, specifically Brooklyn and the Bronx. As of 1990 the largest, most violent of the posses was the Shower Posse, followed by the Spangler Posse. Posse members are highly mobile and use different names in each city, making infiltration difficult and dangerous.
Lester Coke, also known as Jim Brown, is the alleged leader of the smaller of two factions of the Shower Posse that operates in Jamaica. Coke was a political enforcer and bodyguard to Edward Seaga, the leader of the Jamaican Labour Party. He was a Jamaican contractor who, according to Florida officials, had a prominent role in political campaigns of Prime Minister Edward Seaga, a member of the Jamaican Labour Party. Lester Coke was deported in 1987 from Miami to Kingston to stand trialfor the murders of 12 individuals, but the charges were dropped when witnesses failed to testify against him. Since the Florida RICO indictment, Coke was also wanted in Jamaica where additional murder charges had been filed against him. Lester Coke burned to death in a Jamaican jail cell while awaiting extradition to the United States.
On August 28, 2009 the United States Drug Enforcement Administration's New York Field Division ("DEA") announced that charges were unsealed against CHRISTOPHER MICHAEL COKE, a/k/a "Michael Christopher Coke," a/k/a "Paul Christopher Scott," a/k/a "Presi," a/k/a "General," a/k/a "President," a/k/a "Duddus," a/k/a "Shortman." Christopher "Dudus" Coke's father was was Lester Coke, also known as Jim Brown, one of the founders of the Shower Posse and a fellow champion and protector of the impoverished Tivoli Gardens neighborhood in Kingston.
COKE led an international criminal organization known as the "Shower Posse," with members in Jamaica, the United States, and other countries -- which he had led since the early 1990s. At COKE's direction and under his protection, members of his criminal organization sell marijuana and crack cocaine in the New York area and elsewhere, and send the narcotics proceeds back to COKE and his co-conspirators. COKE and his co-conspirators also arm their organization with illegally trafficked firearms. COKE has been named by the U.S. Department of Justice to the list of Consolidated Priority Organization Targets "CPOTs"), which includes the world's most dangerous narcotics kingpins. COKE was arrested by Jamaican authorities on June 22, 2010, near Kingston, Jamaica, after a five-week pursuit by local authorities.
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