Extraterritoriality and anthropological knowledge: the case of 'President' Coke and Tivoli Gardens

'Extraterritoriality' has legal usage as the state of being exempt from local law. Some years ago I used 'extraterritoriality' to describe another, imaginative, state of exemption - how ordinary Jamaicans told adventure stories about personal transport out of social-political conditions on the island. Those stories were shaped by the actual movements of friends and relatives to, especially, New York, London and Toronto. However, Jamaican social scientist Obika Gray has used the word in a different, but related, sense - one that bears directly on the current 'news' about violent street fighting between the Jamaican Defence Force and residents of Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town in Kingston, the Jamaican capital.

Since colonial independence, specific sections or 'garrisons' in Kingston have become locked in a clientalist relationship between local 'dons' and one or other of the two major political parties. The symbiosis acts in such a way that these garrisons and their bosses acquire a de facto extraterritorial status vis-a-vis the judiciary because they are protected by whichever party they ally with and support at the elections. Tivoli Gardens, until now 'run' by 'President' Coke is a classic garrison community and likewise a classic example of extraterritoriality in Gray's sense. Tivoli Gardens 'supports' the JLP 'run' by Bruce Golding. Coke is admired by many in Tivoli Gardens because he redistributes proceedings from his international business to people locally.

Enter the other President - President Obama. This president wishes the Jamaican judiciary to extradite Coke because the US government views him as a lynchpin of cocaine and marijuana smuggling in the US. Over many years, the US government has tried to control the drug market within its own borders by using military, economic (including IMF) and diplomatic leverage on Caribbean states from Colombia to Jamaica and Haiti. During the early 1990s, the US put pressure on the Jamaican government to aerial spray marijuana plantations in mountainous central Jamaica. Since the chemicals would have run down the hillsides and entered every part of the ecosystem, and perhaps because marijuana is an immense source of income for the island economy, this was resisted. In contrast to Haiti, the US government cannot simply station tens of thousands of troops in Jamaica when it chooses: Jamaica is a two party democracy, a member of the British Commonwealth with the Queen of England as the head of state (but then, those things were true of Grenada too).

So the symbiosis extends further and so does the problem of extraterritoriality. Jamaica continues to supply a large part of the Marijuana that enters the US market and also helps to service a large part of the US requirement for cocaine. In return, out of the United States come the weapons used not only in Jamaica, but Mexico and elsewhere in Central America. Somewhere between 400000 and 1000000 Jamaicans live legally or illegally in the US. The US government wishes to overstep the customary politics of Jamaica. Hence, Bruce Golding's (now reversed) plea: 'I am going to uphold a position that constitutional rights do not begin at Liguanea': The US embassy is in Liguanea (about six miles across town from Tivoli Gardens)... It is the extraterritorial arm of the US in Jamaica...

Postscript (07/June/10):
On Friday, one of my oldest Jamaican friends rang me from the impoverished suburb where she lives with her three children and grandchild. She was just calling because she thought I would be worried about her and the family. In truth, I had thought she would be fairly safe (whatever safe means in Kingston, Jamaica) some distance across the other side of the city. No; 'they' - an indiscriminate army-gangsters-police - 'kill people all over town'; shootouts less than a mile away, bodies in the shanties nearby. I mentioned Coke by name and she paused - 'we musn't talk too loud', because 'they' were listening. The measure of unsustainability and impossibility in the relationship of state and people in Jamaica has expanded to a new notch.

Postscript (11 June 2012):

After the extradition of Coke to the U.S. and a lengthy trial, he was sentenced to 23 years in prison. But the wider and fuller ramifications of the case remain unexplored.

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Comment by Huon Wardle on June 11, 2012 at 12:56pm


Op-Ed: Dudus and Forfeiture

June 11, 2012 | 1:00 am |

By Ramesh Sujanani
Op-Ed Contributor

It was somewhat disconcerting to read that Christopher “Dudus” Coke’s dollars are wanted.  My first reaction was, very well; we have to confiscate this money, and to my surprise, it is the US authorities that will do the search in Jamaica and other countries.

I see that District Judge Robert Patterson demanded that Dudus hand over his assets to the US. So my mind ran ablaze with questions.

It would seem that Dudus does not have the power to hand over his assets, except to the government of Jamaica, having committed crimes under “The Proceeds of Crime Act” because he is a Jamaican citizen, and the likely assets are in Jamaica.

The Money Laundering Act indicates (or remains silent) that the only agency with a right to these assets is the one designated by the government of Jamaica.  I am not aware that a District Court in the United States has a right to make a ruling effective in another country, unless some permission, or understanding, exists between Governments. Perhaps such an arrangement exists, however.

But how can US Investigators come to Jamaica and directly investigate and locate assets belonging to Dudus without interaction with security forces in Jamaica, since Dudus resided in Jamaica, and is, in fact, a Jamaican with business interests formerly situated in Jamaica?

Comment by Huon Wardle on June 4, 2012 at 4:17pm


Western banks 'reaping billions from Colombian cocaine trade'

 'The most far-reaching and detailed analysis to date of the drug economy in any country – in this case, Colombia – shows that 2.6% of the total street value of cocaine produced remains within the country, while a staggering 97.4% of profits are reaped by criminal syndicates, and laundered by banks, in first-world consuming countries.

"The story of who makes the money from Colombian cocaine is a metaphor for the disproportionate burden placed in every way on 'producing' nations like Colombia as a result of the prohibition of drugs," said one of the authors of the study, Alejandro Gaviria, launching its English edition last week.

"Colombian society has suffered to almost no economic advantage from the drugs trade, while huge profits are made by criminal distribution networks in consuming countries, and recycled by banks which operate with nothing like the restrictions that Colombia's own banking system is subject to."'

Comment by Huon Wardle on April 13, 2012 at 11:06am

Dudus' lawyer stands firm

Maintains US/GOJ extradition conspiracy despite diaspora outrage

BY HAROLD G BAILEY Sunday Observer writer editorial@jamaicaobserve

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NEW York, USA — The lawyer representing convicted Tivoli Gardens strongman Christopher 'Dudus' Coke is standing by controversial statements alleging complicity between United States (US) authorities and the Jamaican government in bringing charges against, and subsequently extraditing, his client.

Notwithstanding that the claims have outraged the Jamaican Diaspora here, attorney Stephen H Rosen, in an interview with the Observer, was adamant he is correct in his assessment.

Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Dudus--lawyer-stands-firm_11097...

Rosen said the only part of his comments that he was prepared to retract was a reference to the US Secretary of State not wanting the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) to win the last general election.

"I meant the State Department, not Secretary of State," he said in a follow-up interview last week.

Rosen said that the previous People's National Party (PNP) government had a close relationship with the US State and Justice Departments and charged that politics was responsible for Coke's arrest and subsequent extradition.

He said that the US government "has always seem to favour the People's National Party".

"One of the first acts by the US after the JLP took office was to issue a request for Mr Coke's extradition," the attorney noted.

Asked if he could provide evidence to support his charges, Rosen referred to the controversial 'wiretap' Memorandum of Understanding (MOUs) between the Jamaican and US governments, as well as information on the matter which he said are contained in documents from the Supreme Court of Jamaica.

Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Dudus--lawyer-stands-firm_11097...

Comment by Huon Wardle on July 26, 2010 at 10:27am
R.M. Koster and G. Sanchez Bourbon quoted in F. Wheen's How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World 178-179:

'The very concept of a war on drugs became meaningless with Black Eagle and Supermarket, the CIA operations whereby weapons were secretly supplied to the Contras [in Nicaragua] in contravention of congressional strictures. In Black Eagle, Israeli stocks of captured PLO weapons were moved from Texas to Central America by means of Noriega's network of hidden airstrips... Instantly grasping that drug pilots wuld be sitting in the cockpits of empty planes for the return flights, Noriega alertly filled the void by arranging for them to carry narcotics. The CIA of course, were buying the gas, as well as protecting the whole operation against the impious meddling of law-inforcement organisations, which put the US government in the cocaine trade - that is, in the war on drugs but on the wrong side.'
Comment by Huon Wardle on July 26, 2010 at 10:16am
From 'How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered the World', Francis Wheen.

'Perhaps the most sublime instance of blowback was the despatch of US troops to Panama by President George Bush in 1989, for the sole purpose of arresting President Manuel Noriega and hauling him off to a Florida courtroom on charges of racketeering and drug-running. While awaiting trial, Noriega was approached by American prosecutors with an extraordinary plea-bargain: he could use cash from his foreign bank accounts (which had been frozen) to hire the best lawyers that dollars could buy, if in return he agreed not to mention that he had been on the payroll of the CIA since the 1970s... such an admission could be embarrassing, not least because the director of the CIA at the time of Noriega's recruitment, in the days of the Ford administration, had been a certain George Bush - who, as President was now pursuing a 'war on drugs'.
Comment by Huon Wardle on June 30, 2010 at 12:26pm
Comment by Huon Wardle on June 25, 2010 at 12:13pm
leaving [the state]... its illusions of controllable boundaries?

Thanks Joel,
That is a fair point: the states in question seem to act in a state-like way - most apparently when the Jamaican government sends in the army. Both the US and Jamaica are, or have, de jure states. But notice how quickly Coke has been sent to the former. What does that tell us about the meaning of the word 'state'?
Comment by Huon Wardle on June 25, 2010 at 11:34am

Coke was flown to the US to face trial for alleged drug and weapons trafficking. He faces a life sentence if convicted.

The leader of the Shower Posse gang, whom US officials allege is the head of a crime network that extends from Jamaica to Europe and North America, said he was saddened by the more than 75 lives lost in the fighting, mostly in his Kingston stronghold of Tivoli Gardens, sparked by the attempt to arrest and extradite him.

"I take this decision for I believe it to be in the best interest of my family, the community of western Kingston and, in particular,the people of Tivoli Gardens and above all Jamaica," he said. He said he expected to be acquitted in the US and to return to Jamaica.

Hours before his extradition, the Jamaican authorities seized Coke's identifiable assets and froze his bank accounts.

Police arrested Coke as he was on his way to the US embassy earlier this week. He had apparently planned to hand himself over to the Americans out of concern for his safety. His father died in mysterious circumstances in prison in 1992, in what many Jamaicans believe was a murder to stop him talking about ties between criminal gangs and politicians.
Comment by Joel M. Wright on June 24, 2010 at 6:01pm
Great point, Huon.

So, exploring and commenting on the issue should not be bounded by the concept of a discrete society, as the constituent elements of "society" cross so many kinds of boundaries and borders as to make it more mythical than real.

Maybe, however, we can distinguish between society and state, leaving the latter its illusions of controllable boundaries?

In any event, I think Anna Julia Cooper was working and theorizing in a timeframe that didn't have this level of savvy about what a society is and what its borders might entail (borders being different than boundaries, according to Josiah Heyman).

I've often encountered a criticism of anthropology from African American sociologists, who wonder why we are trying to clean up elsewhere when we haven't bothered to sweep our back porch. Sometimes I think multiculturalism, at least as I've encountered it in sociology, has a long way to go.

Still, Cooper's idea is trenchant. The people who are most likely to be able to explain how the social and the cultural are enforced are those on whom various forms of force (internal and external) are exerted the most.
Comment by Huon Wardle on June 24, 2010 at 11:12am
she wrote that a society should not be judged by the heights that people can achieve, but rather by the depths to which people are allowed to sink.

The question in this case is what, or where, are we referring to when we talk about 'a society'. Given that the processes we are discussing exist as they do because of the lack of fit between juridical forms, state boundaries, human expectations and ideals, economic relationships, political authority, patterns of human movement and so on then 'society' becomes a blurry category. And when we foreground the links between guns, drugs, migration, corporate interests and so on we are only indicating particular superficies.


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