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United States vs its 'backyard' - Washington always wins

Published:Sunday | March 14, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Police officers escort Colombian Juan Edison Salcedo Ibarra, an alleged member of Colombian drug cartel of Norte del Valle in Quito, on Wednesday, October 21, 2009. Salcedo Ibarra was detained in Manta, 260 kms, some 160 miles southwest of Quito.
Christopher 'Dudus' Coke is wanted in the United States on alleged drug-related charges. - File photo

Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer

THE FACE-off between Washington and Kingston over reputed Tivoli Gardens enforcer Christopher 'Dudus' Coke has revived memories of similar clashes between the United States and countries in this region.

These include the ongoing battle in Honduras, where the US appears to be using every diplomatic weapon at its disposal to express its displeasure at the interim government's refusal to restore ousted president Manuel Zelaya to power.

In Jamaica, the Government's refusal to sign an extradition order that would place Coke in the hands of US law enforcement has put the administration of Prime Minister Bruce Golding in hot water with Washington.

Coke was named last year by US authorities as leader of the infamous Shower Posse, a gang his father, Lester Lloyd 'Jim Brown' Coke, once led.

Dudus is wanted for alleged drug and gun-running between Jamaica and the US.

But the minister of justice has so far refused to sign the extradition request based on what the Government says were "abnormal procedures" in the US request.

This is not the first time the US has had problems getting persons with alleged criminal ties extradited from Jamaica.

Vivian Blake, reputed founder of the Shower Posse, eluded capture for six years before cutting a deal with the 'Feds' in 2000, and did prison time in the US.

Others extradited

Drug traffickers Lebert Ramcharan and Donovan 'Plucky' Williams were arrested by US and Jamaican narcotics agents in 2004.

They were ordered extradited three years later by local courts to the US, where they received lengthy prison sentences.

Other Caribbean territories, including tiny St Kitts, The Bahamas, as well as Colombia in South America, have had similar run-ins with US officials.

In the case of St Kitts, it took 10 years before the Americans got hold of Kittitian nationals Glenroy Matthew and Noel 'Zambo' Heath, who were named as international drug traffickers by the US in the early 1990s.

Matthew and Heath exhausted their extradition rights before finally surrendering to US agents in St Kitts in 2006. They are currently serving lengthy prison sentences in the states.

Another Kittitian drug lord, Charles 'Little Nut' Miller, was a key member of the Shower Posse. After living in the US Witness Protection Programme, Miller fled to his homeland in the mid-1990s and ran a lucrative cocaine trade between St Kitts and Colombia.

A rise in criminality on the islands was blamed on Miller's illicit activities and prompted the government of prime minister Denzil Douglas to work with US authorities to get him extradited.

In 2000, after five years on the run, Miller surrendered to US agents. He is currently imprisoned in that country.

Trans-shipment point

The twin-island state of St Kitts-Nevis has long been a trans-shipment point for drug traffickers.

Under a 1996 extradition treaty, US agents can physically arrest reputed fugitives in St Kitts once the courts there (in St Kitts) rule against them.

The Bahamas was another active space for the notorious 'Cocaine Cowboys' who operated out of Colombia and Miami during the 1970s and 1980s.

In recent years, the Bahamian government has extradited several nationals wanted in the US for trafficking narcotics.

But in January, The Bahamas denied another extradition request by the US for Viktor Kozeny, a Czech-born financier who has lived there since 1995.

Kozeny is wanted in the US on charges of plotting to bribe officials in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan in the late 1990s to get favourable treatment on oil deals.

US authorities have been trying to get him extradited since 2005. However, The Bahamas Court of Appeal ruled that he cannot be extradited to stand trial in the US because bribing foreign officials is not a local crime and he is not subject to American anti-bribery laws.

The notorious narcotics trade that flourished in Colombia during the 1970s and 1980s is largely responsible for the American government signing aggressive extradition treaties with Caribbean governments.

For many years, leaders of the infamous Colombian cartels, including Carlos Lehder and Pablo Escobar, used the region as a route for getting their illegal products into Miami.

Because Colombia had no extradition clause in its newly crafted 1991 constitution, drug dealers were able to elude US authorities, but that changed in 1997 when the extradition law was reinstated.

Since 2001, more than 200 persons once tied to the Colombian narcotics trade have been extradited to the US. They include Gilberto Rodriquez Orejuela, a founder of the feared Cali Cartel, who was given a 36-year prison sentence in Miami in 2006.

In Honduras, officials last week claimed that the US had taken away the diplomatic and tourist visas of 16 interim government officials.

Presidential spokeswoman Marcia de Villeda claimed Washington revoked the visas of 14 Supreme Court judges, the foreign relations secretary and the country's attorney general.

Honduran interim President Roberto Micheletti also claimed that his US diplomatic and tourist visas had been revoked, and linked Washington's move to the June 28 coup, which ousted Zelaya.

Sign of pressure

Micheletti said he had anticipated the action and called it "a sign of the pressure that the US government is exerting on our country" to restore Zelaya.

That is a similar story to the one told by students of Haitian history who claim the United States led and organised the 'revolution' which forced Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide into exile.

Aristide, a former slum preacher, was beloved by many of Haiti's poor, but opposition to his rule grew during his second presidential term after he was accused of masterminding assaults on opponents, allowing drug-fuelled corruption, and breaking promises to help the poor.

With the US openly showing its opposition to Aristide, he was ousted and 'forced' into exile in Africa, giving the US victory in that theatre.

Years earlier, 1989, in Panama, US forces invaded and arrested President Manuel Noriega.

At that time, the US claimed that its former allay was involved in drug trafficking, racketeering and money laundering.

That came just over a year after a Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Operations concluded that "the saga of Panama's General Manuel Antonio Noriega represents one of the most serious foreign policy failures for the United States."


  • Extradition is the formal surrender of a person by a  country to another for prosecution or punishment.
  • Extradition to or from Jamaica is a creature of the Extradition Act.
  • Jamaica has extradition treaties with many countries around the world and the justice minister may, from time to time, by order, compile and publish in the Gazette a list of foreign states with which extradition treaties or agreements binding on Jamaica are in force.
  • International terrorism and drug trafficking have made extradition an increasingly important law-enforcement tool.