Seldom has the “war on drugs” been seen in more graphic action than on the streets of Kingston, Jamaica, as security forces try to arrest, at the United States’ request, the alleged narcotics baron Christopher “Dudus” Coke. 73 people have now been killed, and, as in so many wars, most of them appear to have been civilians.
The toll is mounting towards that recorded in the island’s worst disaster of the last 100 years – Hurricane Charlie in 1951, which claimed 152 lives.
It is not clear whether Coke is still in his Tivoli Gardens stronghold, but he appears to have support from many in the area who regard him as a benefactor to the dispossessed ignored by the government. Some local people have been shouting “murderers” at Jamaican soldiers.
The battle has revived the question of whether criminalisation is the best way to combat the drugs trade, or whether, however well-meaning, the policy is as disastrous as was the prohibition of alcohol in the United States in the 1920’s.