Jamaica is resisting a U.S. request to hand over a suspected crime boss with ties to the Caribbean nation’s governing party amid reports he is stockpiling weapons in his Kingston stronghold to prevent arrest.
The island’s government, which received the extradition request for Christopher “Dudus” Coke in August, has so far only responded with requests for more information about the gun and drug trafficking charges against the reputed gang leader.
Coke, identified by the U.S. Justice Department as one of the world’s most dangerous drug kingpins, allegedly controls a band of gunmen inside Tivoli Gardens, a barricaded neighborhood of Kingston, the capital of Jamaica and a city with one of the highest homicide rates in the Western Hemisphere.
U.S. authorities are voicing frustration that Jamaica is not moving more quickly to honor a mutual extradition treaty.
“The U.S. government is looking forward to the Jamaican government respecting their obligations under the treaty,” Patricia Attkisson, spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Kingston, said Thursday.
The political opposition has also criticized the government for putting Jamaica into what it calls a standoff over Coke, who is known for his loyalty to the Jamaica Labor Party. Island gangs have loose affiliations with both major parties – a legacy of the 1970s, when political factions provided the guns to intimidate rivals.
“The cascading effect of international reaction to the administration’s inaction could lead ultimately to Jamaica being labeled and declared a ‘rogue state,’ with lasting adverse implications for our people,” said Peter Bunting, a lawmaker with the opposition People’s National Party.
A government spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.
Coke’s lawyer, Tom Tavares-Finson, said his client has not been in touch with the local government and is not privy to the details of any discussions between the U.S. and Jamaica.
“We’re waiting to hear what the decision is,” said Tavares-Finson, who has dismissed the U.S. charges as “hype.”
Coke, the alleged leader of the “Shower Posse” gang, is charged in the U.S. Southern District of New York with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana and conspiracy to illegally traffic in firearms. Coke, 40, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.
Under Coke’s direction, U.S. authorities allege, “Shower Posse” members have sold marijuana and crack cocaine in the New York area and elsewhere and funneled profits back to him.
An island-wide explosion of violence could result from an attempt to arrest Coke, who has extensive connections across the country, said Horace Levy, who works to reduce community violence through the government-launched Peace Management Initiative.
“The information I have, which is good information, is that he is preparing to defend himself,” and is even equipped with gas masks, Levy said. “There is a serious intent on the part of Dudus not to hand himself in and defend himself.”