JAMAICA – A country known as a tropical paradise has declared a state of emergency!
Authorities in Jamaica declared a state of emergency in Kingston on Sunday night after gang members blockaded a large swath of the capital city and attacked at least two police stations. Masked men torched one of the police stations and traded gunfire with security forces in a patchwork of barricaded slums in the capital.
The declaration comes on the heels of the United States issuing a travel alert for its citizens concerning the Caribbean nation on Friday.
“The possibility exists for violence and/or civil unrest in the greater Kingston metropolitan area,” the alert said. “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.”
Gunshots were heard around West Kingston where defiant supporters of Christopher “Dudus” Coke, a Jamaican “don” sought by the U.S. on drug and arms trafficking charges, turned his Tivoli Gardens neighborhood and other areas into a virtual fortress with trashed cars and barbed wire. The violence has escalated over the last week with rising tensions in the capital over the possible extradition of Coke to the United States.
Coke is described as one of the world’s most dangerous drug lords by the U.S. Justice Department. He has ties to the governing Jamaica Labour Party and holds significant sway over the West Kingston area represented in Parliament by Prime Minister Bruce Golding.
Golding has been hesitant in extraditing Coke, citing illegal wiretap evidence by the U.S. as insufficient means for extradition. His hesitancy has strained relations with Washington, and has the U.S. questioning the Caribbean country’s reliability as an ally in the fight against drugs.
The U.S. Embassy in Kingston is taking extra security precautions, according to the alert, which expires June 21.
“American citizens should consider risks associated with travel to and within the greater Kingston metropolitan area,” the Embassy said. “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.”