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'Dudus' Coke, Kingston's notorious 'Robin Hood'

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-05-27

For many Jamaicans, Christopher "Dudus" Coke, listed as one of the world’s "most dangerous narcotics kingpins" by the US, is a modern-day Robin Hood, who provides poor neighbourhoods with sorely lacking jobs, schools and security.

Jamaica’s Christopher “Dudus” Coke - a man flagged by the US Department of Justice as one of the world’s most dangerous “narcotics kingpins” is revered by many of his countrymen as a hero of the poor; a sort of “Robin Hood” of the drug trade. Murderous criminal or people’s benefactor, just who is Dudus Coke?

Shower Posse
Described by the Jamaican media as a quiet, discreet man who rarely speaks to journalists, the suspected 42-year-old drug baron is the son of Lester Coke, former leader of a criminal gang dubbed the “Shower Posse”. The group was bestowed with its title for the generous quantities of bullets it sprayed on its victims.
According to US secret services, the gang ran one of the most powerful cocaine and crack trafficking networks towards the US, Canada and the UK, and is responsible for over 1,000 deaths, both in Jamaica and in the US.
Lester Coke died in 1992 in a mysterious jailhouse fire while awaiting extradition to the United States, where he was wanted for organising criminal network in major cities. Now American authorities want to bring his son, suspected of taking over the Shower Posse’s criminal empire, to justice.
According to a New York Times article published in 1988, the Shower Posse singlehandedly controlled up to 40 percent of the US drug market.
Besides his alleged criminal activities, Dudus is also a successful businessman. He directed the construction company Incomparable Enterprise Ltd, which received millions in state contracts until 2002.
His other company, Presidential Click, stages the biggest weekly street party in Jamaica, Passa Passa, as well as the dancehall competition Champions in Action.
“After God, Dudus”
Dudus also developed ties with Jamaica’s political establishment, which explains why, until recently, Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding refused to comply with US extradition requests.

Golding is a Labour MP from Dudus’ home turf of West Kingston.

Wide public sympathy for Dudus, as demonstrated by numerous signs or graffiti scrawled across poor neighbourhoods (“After God, Dudus” or “Jesus died for us so we will die for Dudus”), has also shielded him from government rebuke.

Many Jamaican “dons”, or drug lords, buy public sympathy by doling out money to the poor, but Coke took criminal generosity to a new level by creating jobs, building schools and providing health and security in the country’s poorest areas.

These philanthropic gestures have earned him a loyal following among some slum-dwellers, who even refer to Dudus as “the President”.

“Essentially he has overseen the transformation of a community riddled with criminality and violence into a place where people can make money," Jamaican Senator Tom Tavares Finson, who until recently served as Coke’s attorney, told the Jamaica Observer daily.

The government’s decision to comply with a US extradition request for Dudus plunged the Jamaican capital of Kingston into chaos in May. Dozens of civilians were killed in violent clashes between Dudus’ supporters and security forces sent in to apprehend the strongman.

Hundreds of residents of West Kingston took to the streets last week to voice their support for Dudus and, while some joined the crowd out of fear that they would be targeted if they did not participate, many express outright devotion for their “President”.

To them, the US' bid to bring Christopher Coke to justice amounts to a coup d’état.


Date created : 2010-05-26