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by Peter Moskos

May 23, 2010

"He does what the government doesn't do for us"

Jamaica is a rough place. 2.7 million people and 1,500 homicides. That's a higher homicide rate than Baltimore... but lower than Baltimore's Eastern District. It's also dangerous for police, with 5 official line-of-duty deaths per year (though I suspect many more police die in less official ways).

Jamaican police are known to kill a lot of people, probably between 150 and 300 each year. Now that's getting tough on crime! Too bad it doesn't work.

Now I've never been to Jamaica and don't know what I'm talking about. But here's my take: You got the drugs. They're illegal. So you got the drug lords. They got the money. And then you got the government. But the government don't do anything for the poor folk. So the drug lords do a little and are pretty popular in certain parts. The drug lords are also linked to politics.

As Amnesty International puts it:
Gang leaders use the vacuum left by the absence of the state to control huge aspects of inner city people's lives -- including the collection of "taxes", allocation of jobs, distribution of food and the punishment of those who transgress gang rules.
Police? They're in the middle. They probably don't go into certain neighborhoods and many are bought off. But every now and then police do the right or wrong thing and get caught up in crime or trying to fight crime.

The latest is that because of US presure, police are trying to get a drug lord, Christopher "Dudus" Coke. He's wanted in the U.S. But this "don" isn't going down without a fight. The Harder They Come, baby (I just never get tired of Toots and the Maytals singing "Sweet and Dandy"): A police station torched. Gun battles. Barricades. A government offering to bus people to safety. A Prime Minister saying violence will not be tolerated.

Of course a lot of the people will fight for Dudus because Dudus keeps the streets safe (or safer than the police can) and Dudus dolls out some handouts, his version of government cheese, which of course is more cheese than the government gives out. Or, as one woman said, "We haffi support all a man like that because him a do what the Government naa do fi wi."

[abrasive sound of scratching needle-on-record]

Say what?! "Naa do fi wi"? Let's turn to Professor Harriott, political sociologist at the University of the West Indies (my dad did some research there years ago, had good things to say about it):
The women would have enumerated those benefits, being safe from rapists, etc. Plus there are other traditional benefits like free light, etc, so there are tangible benefits. ... It is a communal thing and there is a common identity -- one benefits simply by being a member of the group.... There are privileges and obligations, one of which is to protect. If the don makes money and doesn't let off, then the contract is broken. As long as the don upholds his end, there will not be a problem.
Ah, that's my language (I just knew an ivy-league education was good for something). But that quote isn't as much fun as my girlfriend:
Inna this area we feel safe, because man from outside and even dem whey live ya cyaan come in and rape we.... If any rape a gwaan, a when we go out a road and man try a thing. Up ya so nuh come een like a place like over Seaview [Gardens] where them don't have no don in charge and everybody do as them like. Up ya so we have a one man who run things and when anybody bruk the rules, we report him and the boss deal wid him.
Yesssss. Exactly. Does she know there's drug money involved? Of course a little of that goes on, but those guys don't make much money from that... "Lickle a dat gwaan, but dem man dey nuh mek much money offa dem things dey." Of course they don't.

I want to go to Jamaica. I won't understand a word!

Cartoon from the Jamaica Observer

P.S. Jamaica is not going to win the war on drugs either.


Anonymous said...

My understanding is that each gang controls a particular garrison community (ghetto). Each gang is closely affiliated with a particular political party. The gang delivers votes for the party and the party provides protection and government funding for housing and welfare. The gang than distributes that largesse as it pleases. Prominent politicians have been known to attend the funerals of gangsters.

Just recently there were a number of arrests of gang members affiliated with Dudus' Shower Posse here in Ontario.

-From Canada

Anonymous said...

Jamaica, like all countries, are not without their problems. The war on drugs won't be winnable simply because it shouldn't have been fought in the first place. Rather the government should have searched for a way to regulate it and tax it for revenue while at the same time encouraging programs to prevent drug use. Instead we have countless resources dedicated to trying to jail people who do drugs or other seemingly harmless activities, like video games: http://lawblog.legalmatch.com/2010/05/03/violent-video-games-to-get-their-day-in-court/

Anonymous said...

The war on drugs is a tale of a once great and free nation which fell down a rat hole into a fantasy world riddled with peculiar and dystopian logic.

No amount of money, police powers, weaponry, wishful thinking or pseudo-science will make our streets safe again; only an end to prohibition can do that. How much longer are we willing to foolishly risk our own survival by continuing to ignore the obvious, historically confirmed solution?

For those of you who are still living in some strange parallel universe, one where prohibition actually works, may I suggest that you return to high school economics class, and learn about supply and DEMAND. Learn that you cannot up DEMAND simply by upping supply. Contrary to popular held superstition, drugs are not PUSHED, the drug dealers are filling a DEMAND not creating one. The DEMAND is here in the US and is impossible to control, but what is possible to control, is the income from that DEMAND. All we have to do is allow legal businesses to meet that DEMAND. Under proper regulation drug use will not rise, as it couldn't get any worse than it is at present.

If you support prohibition then you've helped trigger the worst crime wave in history.

If you support prohibition you've a helped create a black market with massive incentives to hook both adults and children alike.

If you support prohibition you've helped to make these dangerous substances available in schools and prisons.

If you support prohibition you've helped raise gang warfare to a level not seen since the days of alcohol bootlegging.

If you support prohibition you've helped create the prison-for-profit synergy with drug lords.

If you support prohibition you've helped remove many important civil liberties from those citizens you falsely claim to represent.

If you support prohibition you've helped put previously unknown and contaminated drugs on the streets.

If you support prohibition you've helped to escalate Theft, Muggings and Burglaries.

If you support prohibition you've helped to divert scarce law-enforcement resources away from protecting your fellow citizens from the ever escalating violence against their person or property.

If you support prohibition you've helped overcrowd the courts and prisons, thus making it increasingly impossible to curtail the people who are hurting and terrorizing others.

If you support prohibition you've helped evolve local gangs into transnational enterprises with intricate power structures that reach into every corner of society, controlling vast swaths of territory with significant social and military resources at their disposal.

And one last thought: The real “drug Dons” are the rich and powerful who control the government-licensed drug cartel (Big Pharma). They view people who oppose proper regulation of these unpatentable --thus at present illegal-- substances, as “useful idiots”