The US and 'Dudus'
I am a man of modest accomplishments. So the likelihood of the United States revoking my visa is extremely remote. As a child I was impressed with the generosity of the US. They seemed to be giving money and things to everybody. I could not understand, therefore, why older guys attending university held views that were diametrically opposed to my own. Though they did not hold the extreme views of terrorists - which no well-thinking person could support - they felt that the US had done incalculable damage around the world.
I have been most uncomfortable however with the extradition treaty with the US - a country which is prepared to take the word of a convicted criminal seeking a reduced sentence, to convict someone else. They are now demanding Christopher 'Dudus' Coke. He is wanted for trafficking in guns and drugs. Has he been sending guns to the US? And what is the true position of the US on drugs? My mother was born in Panama, so let's look at that country.
From as far back as 1971, the US claimed to have "hard evidence ... sufficient for indictment" of heavy involvement in drug trafficking by Manuel Noriega, the Panamanian strongman. It was said that President Nixon had set in motion plans to assassinate him. They discovered, however, that he was useful in providing intelligence on Castro, Daniel Ortega and others. So, the CIA put him on their payroll instead, and he became their "golden boy". He was even given a VIP tour of the CIA headquarters by George Bush Snr. For decades, he, along with others from the Colombian drug cartels, flew hundreds of tons of drugs into the US with the full knowledge of US officials.
By 1989, Noriega rejected any suggestion that the US would be accommodated after the Canal Treaty ended. Eleven days before that deadline, the US invaded Panama and arrested Noriega for drug trafficking. Thousands of citizens were killed. Hearing American soldiers singing, "This land is my land, that land is my land, there's no land here that isn't my land" did nothing to boost the spirits of Panamanians. The US installed Guillermo Endara as president.
In Jamaica, a National Commission on Ganja was established in 2000. The commissioners found medical evidence that marijuana (ganja) is useful in decreasing the severity of a wide range of medical problems. But a Jamaican cannot smoke a spliff at home - even for medical purposes (which is allowed in the US) - because the US forbids it. And we have to do what the US orders us to do. All this against the background that, unlike the hard drugs that Noriega flew in almost daily which kills 20,000 people in the US each year, there has never been a recorded marijuana death in US history.
Terms of treaty
So what are the terms of this Extradition Treaty with the US? Is extradition mandatory or is it discretionary? Were those who signed on our behalf aware of that section of the Inter-American Convention on Extradition which prohibits extradition, '... when the offence in question is punishable in the requesting state by the death penalty, life imprisonment or by degrading punishment?' And, that, even if the words 'life imprisonment' are not used, a 45 year-old man who receives a 30-year sentence is given a life sentence?
I am also wondering if it is remotely possible for a person to be labelled a 'crime boss' and a 'drug kingpin' by a requesting state and still get a fair trial by that state. Those labels suggest that the person is already convicted and is really going to a pre-incarceration ritual. I do not think the US has the moral authority to accuse Bruce Golding's administration of corruption and I intend to write to President Obama and seek his permission to be angry about it!
The government claims the evidence against Coke was illegally obtained and not admissible in court. But some of us want him to be sent anyway. What is this telling us about ourselves? Yes, we are fearful. History has shown us repeatedly what the US does to those who do not do exactly as they are ordered. But, can we ask respectfully for a little respect?
Sometimes consensus is critical in a nation's development. This is such a time. When this Coke deal is over, who will be next? We need to be more cautious of anyone who says, 'send Tom or Dick ... right now!' This is no time to score cheap political points or seek to curry favour with the Americans
I am, etc.,
The incorrect version of this letter with was published last Thursday. An edited version of the original is published today.