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For nine agonizing months, Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding wrangled with U.S. authorities over Coke’s extradition. The Big Man of Tivoli Gardens was both loved and feared, and removing gangster royalty from the Jamai- can Labour Party’s (JLP) stronghold was no simple matter. In public, Golding argued that the indictment was based on illegal wiretaps, but secret cables released by the whistle- blower website Wikileaks revealed a different explanation. In one memo, a U.S. Embassy staffer described how the Mayor of Kingston, Desmond McKenzie, argued that Coke was a key part of the government’s anti-crime strategy. He warned of “severe repercussions” if the U.S. went through withtheextradition.Andinwhatwouldcometobeknown as the Mannatt Affair, Golding gave the go-ahead to hire the high-priced D.C. law firm Mannatt, Phelps and Phillips to lobby the Obama administration concerning Coke’s case.
The Feds reacted by tightening the screws. In March 2010, the U.S. State Department released its annual narcot- ics report, which was scathing in its criticism of Jamaica’s extradition delays, and suggested “the potential depth of corruption in the government.” Prominent Jamaican busi- nessmen—and dancehall stars like Bounty Killa, Mavado and Beenie Man—had their U.S. visas cancelled without explanation. The message was clear: America would not accept any further delays. They wanted their man.
On the afternoon of May 24, after weeks of growing ten- sion in the city, an elite squad of Jamaican Defense Force soldiers—codename: Ninjas—used explosives to breach the concrete walls of Tivoli Gardens. “I was miles away, and I still heard the bombs drop,” remembers reggae star Gyp- tian, who was happy to be back home after touring over- seas. “It sound like a thunder in Jamaica, but there was no rain. The sun was hot—shiny sun. Peaceful day because the whole place under a state of emergency. Every place quiet. Peacefullest me ever see Jamaica.”
Meanwhile, surveillance images showed Dudus’ own defense team lying in wait: Shottas, loyal rifleists and trained mercenaries sworn to defend Tivoli’s most wanted, have come from all over the island and as far away as Haiti. Some walk with “Chiney Ks”—Kalashnikov rifles smuggled in from China—swinging casually at their sides, backpacks of extra clips slung over their shoulders. Ever since Prime Minister Golding caved to the enormous pressure and agreed to sign Coke’s arrest warrant, Tivoli residents prepared for a siege. A group of women marched peacefully through downtown Kingston holding signs declaring support for the wanted man: “Jesus Died for Us and We Will Die for Dudus.”
The Tivolites had been down this road before. A black cross at the corner of Spanish Town Road and Darling Street engraved “Lest We Forget” commemorates the 31 lives lost in two previous Tivoli incursions in 1997 and 2001. Around here, they remember their own.
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