Kingston, Jamaica exploded in violence this week as local police and Jamaican soldiers tried to locate and apprehend Christopher Coke, an alleged drug lord wanted for trial in the United States. Coke, whom the U.S. considers one of the world's most dangerous drug traffickers, is thought to be walled up in a housing complex in West Kingston. More than 1,000 soldiers and police officers have been deployed to the area in recent days, but Coke's gunmen have returned fire, killing at least three. Violence has spread to other parts of the city, more than two dozen civilians have died, and the government has declared a state of emergency in Kingston. Meanwhile, the bloodshed has occasioned a number of observations about the role of the drug trade in Jamaican society.

  • Coke 'Plays the Robin Hood Role' The University of Miami professor David Rowe has said that Coke essentially functions as a one-man economic engine for many Kingston residents who'd otherwise live in desperate poverty. "He lives in a poor area, and because of his sale of cocaine, he basically plays the Robin Hood role," Rowe told CNN Monday. If Coke is extradited to the U.S., Rowe says, he'll leave behind "mothers wondering, 'Who's going to buy my child lunch?' or 'If I get sick, who's going to pay my hospital bills?'"
  • ...Which Points Up a Weakness of Globalized Economics At Seattle alt-weekly The Stranger, Charles Mudede calls the Kingston imbroglio "one of the most interesting developments in the post-neoliberal world (meaning, a world no longer enchanted by neoliberal ideology)." Mudede's contention is that "the gangsters have filled a space left by a state that was probably forced by the IMF to do what America never does, namely run a surplus budget. This cruel policy leads to considerable cuts in state spending and basic social services. This leads to more chaos for the most poor and vulnerable portions of the population." He goes on to say that "there are real criminal elements in all of this; but the police have no legitimacy because the state has not all been about its people but protecting and enforcing the interests of powerful people in the most powerful countries in the world."
  • Police Offense Shows the Government's Courage  At The Christian Science Monitor, Clayton Jones praises the "unusual bravery" of Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding, as well as the Mexican politicians who have cracked down on drug syndicates in that country. "This takes tremendous courage. The drug gangs have become tightly woven into each nation's politics," Jones points out. The lesson here? "National leaders must finally see drug lords for what they are - a menace - and not something to be coddled or tolerated."
  • Yes, His Name Really Is Christopher Coke  PoliBlog's Steven Taylor notes the odd coincidence. But he's quick to add that "the above would be more amusing if the current situation wasn't so violent."