KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — Jamaican police are investigating if an armed robbery at a Cabinet minister's estate could be linked to an effort by political leaders to wean themselves from their decades-old alliances with underworld figures.
Gunmen held up workers at Industry Minister Karl Samuda's 100-acre property in St. Catherine parish on June 30 and made off with a shotgun and an undisclosed amount of cash and ammunition.
Police Inspector Paul Thomas said July 1 that no arrests have been made, but detectives are probing whether the robbery may have been payback for the ruling Jamaica Labor Party's efforts to dismantle gangs that control poor communities across the island.
On the day before the robbery, Samuda said Labor politicians must no longer work with garrison “community leaders” — a coded reference to slum bosses — for help rustling up votes during campaigns.
In a July 1 statement, Samuda said the robbery “has only strengthened my resolve to help to rid the country of criminals.”
In May, a hunt for top gang leader Christopher “Dudus” Coke in his West Kingston slum stronghold led to a confrontation that killed 73 civilians and three security officers over four days of fighting.
Now jailed in New York, the alleged boss of the notorious Shower Posse gang has pleaded not guilty to charges that he ran a massive drug ring in the eastern United States from his slum base in Jamaica's capital.
Prime Minister Bruce Golding, whose party has long counted on the support of gunmen inside Coke's Tivoli Gardens slum, opposed Coke's extradition request for nine months before reversing under pressure that threatened his political career.
Violent gangs are also deeply entrenched in Spanish Town, just west of Kingston, and the northwestern coastal parish of St. James, which includes the resort city of Montego Bay.
Many slum gangs have roots in political violence during the 1970s, when factions armed criminals to help intimidate election opponents, and affiliations with the two major parties have continued to provide a measure of protection. But Golding has said any such ties of loyalty will be irrelevant to his government's crackdown.
Photo: Christopher Coke