Slum standoff in Jamaica over don’s US extradition

In this photo taken Thursday, May 20, 2010 a demonstrator displays a cardboard with a message in support of Christopher "Dudus" Coke during a march in Kingston. Jamaican Police have an arrest warrant for "Dudus", who allegedly leads one of Jamaica's drug gangs and is sought by U.S. authorities on drug and arms trafficking charges but residents of West Kingston neighborhoods have set up barricades to prevent the police for entering the slums to execute the orde

KINGSTON, Jamaica—In a gritty slum, they are preparing for war. They are building barricades of junked cars and sandbags, making Molotov cocktails and pitching barbed wire over power lines.

They are waiting for the police, who they believe will come for Christopher “Dudus” Coke, a 5-foot-4-inch neighborhood boss that the U.S. Justice Department calls one of the world’s most dangerous drug lords.

Kingston has been jittery since Prime Minister Bruce Golding this week reversed his long-standing refusal to extradite Coke to the United States on drugs and arms-trafficking charges.

The U.S., Canada and Britain have issued travel alerts, warning of possible violence and unrest, and most Jamaicans are steering clear of downtown Kingston entirely.

Dudus’ headquarters, on the west side of the city, is the Tivoli Gardens housing project. Hundreds of residents, many dressed in white, marched peacefully outside a police station Thursday with signs reading: “No Dudus, No Jamaica!”

A sign affixed to a scruffy dog’s back read: “Jesus died for us, we will die for Dudus.”

Authorities insist they won’t be swayed.

“We have and will be executing the warrant” for Coke’s arrest, Deputy Police Commissioner Glenmore Hinds, the officer in charge of operations, told the Jamaica Observer newspaper. “We won’t tell you or anybody else what are the options we are foreseeing, but certainly they will be strategic and deliberate.”

Golding had stalled the request for Coke’s extradition for nine months with claims that the United States’ indictment of the reputed drug trafficker relied on illegal wiretap evidence. The prime minister changed his mind amid growing public discontent, persistent questions about his ties to Coke, and a backlash against his use of a U.S. lobbying firm in Washington to urge authorities to drop the extradition request.

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