Sunday, May 23, 2010

Jamaica Travel Heads-Up: Street Violence in Kingston

Anyone considering traveling to Jamaica really needs to listen up: There is trouble in the capital, Kingston. The violence is perpetrated by thugs supporting a popular gangster wanted by the police -- and by the Americans.

The Jamaican government today posted a state of emergency for some parts of Kingston.

And here's the New York Times update. The Times blog is reporting that the gangster. Christopher "Dudus" Coke, is barricaded in west Kingston.

There's gunfire in some streets, and several police stations in the capital have been attacked by roving bands of thugs.

There may be some element of anti-Americanism involved, since the gangster is wanted in the U.S., but that's just my speculation. The situation evidently has been deteriorating since the State Department issued an alert yesterday.

The wanted criminal in question is a charismatic Jamaican drug figure known locally as Christopher "Dudus" Coke. An article today in the Jamaica newspaper "the Gleaner" has some information on this foul character (once you get past the windy lead-in paragraphs).

The American media have not had this situation on the radar, so there's little context. My hunch: There are genuine anti-American aspects of this violence. The airlines, hotels and cruise companies have not yet caught on to the implications, and when they do, they'll be slow to react.

Americans should be very careful about travel to Jamaica.

The State Department alert says in part:

"The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens about developing security concerns in Jamaica, particularly the Kingston area. The possibility exists for violence and/or civil unrest in the greater Kingston metropolitan area. There are unconfirmed reports of criminal gang members amassing in the Kingston area, as well as mobilization of Jamaican defense forces. If the situation ignites, there is a possibility of severe disruptions of movement within Kingston, including blocking of access roads to the Norman Manley International Airport. The possibility exists that unrest could spread beyond the general Kingston area. U.S. Embassy Kingston is taking extra security precautions. This Travel Alert expires on June 21, 2010.

U.S citizens should consider the risks associated with travel to and within the greater Kingston metropolitan area. U.S. citizens are urged always to practice good security, maintain a heightened situational awareness and a low profile. U.S. citizens in Jamaica are advised to monitor local news reports and consider the level of security present when venturing outside their residence or hotel."


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