Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Measuring Dudus Coke's Role in Jamaica Election Results

The fallout from the violent 2010 siege intended to capture Jamaican drug trafficker Christopher “Dudus” Coke continues to have repercussions on the island’s politics. In the final results for the general election held December 29 and released Tuesday, voters delivered a stinging rebuke to the incumbent Labor Party, which won just 22 seats in Parliament. Opposition the People’s National Party (PNP) took 42 seats and will see former prime minister, Portia Simpson Millter, assume power once again. The landslide election results have been called surprising because surveys showed the two parties in a dead heat just before voters went to the polls.

Analysis from the Miami Herald notes that lingering public anger over the Coke siege explains the PNP’s overwhelming win. Particularly damaging are unresolved questions about the role played by former Prime Minister Bruce Golding in protecting the drug lord. Dudus had an extradition order pending in the US since 2009. Evidence emerged that Golding and the Labor Party tried to stall the process, and even hired a US legal firm to help Coke fight the request.

Coke was a crime “don” who controlled the western neighborhood of Tivoli Gardens in Kingston since the 1990s. Typical for “dons,” he was believed responsible for driving out the vote in Tivoli Gardens, which has long leaned in favor for the Labor Party. The violent September 2010 siege in Tivoli Gardens, which left over 70 people dead, only fueled more public discontent with the Labor Party administration. Ex-Prime Minister Golding stepped down in October 2011, and the December general election delivered the final blow against Labor.

Other security and economic problems in Jamaica may have helped turned voters back to the PNP. Jamaica has one of the highest murder rates in the Caribbean, with 52 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, on an island of just under 3 million people. Joblessness and a listless economy were other top issues.

The question now is whether with such a strong majority in Congress, the PNP will have the gravitas to institute serious policy changes. Previously, when Congress was more closely divided, it was more difficult to push legislation through. Now it will be tougher for the PNP to blame Labor Party opposition, if Jamaica does not start seeing improvements in security or the economy soon.

The election results in Jamaica reflect a larger trend across the Caribbean which has seen the ejection of incumbent parties in power, says the Herald. Such is the case for elections in Trinidad, Haiti, Guyana and St. Lucia.

News Briefs
  • An Ecuadorean court has ruled that energy company Chevron Corps. should pay $18 billion worth of damages due to oil pollution in the Amazon. The waste was dumped over 20 years ago by Texaco, now owned by Chevron. The corporation had strong words against the Ecuadorean court’s ruling, calling it “another glaring example of the politicization and corruption of Ecuador’s judiciary that has plagued this fraudulent case from the start,” reports Business Week.
  • Progressive politician Gustavo Petro has been sworn in as mayor of Colombia’s capital Bogota. In his inauguration speech, he said one of his first actions will be support for a law banning the carrying of firearms in public. Under current law, civilians with with license to carry arms can only purchase weapons from the local army barracks. As La Silla Vacia and Semana point out, the military technically has the final say in determining gun control legislation, so working around this law will be Petro’s first challenge.
  • With the Republican primaries underway in the US, the New York Times has an Op-Ed arguing that non-citizen residents of the US should be able to donate to political campaigns.
  • Foreign Policy has a fluffy piece examining why the Iowa caucus near-winner Rick Santorum constantly refers to his views on Latin American policy, especially in relation to Honduras.
  • Brazil’s Labor Ministry has a list of 294 employers who submit workers to “slave-like” conditions, reports the AP. Authorities reportedly rescued nearly 3,000 people from working in urban and rural sweat shops in 2011, according to the Ministry’s count.
  • InSight Crime examines security prospects for Honduras in 2012, Central America’s most unstable and violence-plagued country.
  • BBC Mundo notes that the judges selected by popular election in Bolivia last October have now been sworn into some of the highest judicial positions in the country.
  • A light piece from the Guardian examines a new reality show in Brazil which follows the lives of Rio and Sao Paulo’s super rich housewives. The show is attracting special attention in Brazil where reportedly 19 millionaires are created every day, according to Forbes.