The political price of an extradition
The Economist | Oct 1st 2011 | from the print edition
ON THE face of things, the announcement on September 25th by Bruce Golding that he plans to step down as Jamaica's prime minister in November is both a surprise and a puzzle. Mr Golding has his critics, but there was no huge pressure on him to resign. No powerful opponents within the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) have openly challenged him.
And, sometimes almost despite himself, he has been Jamaica's most successful leader in decades.
Mr Golding narrowly won an election in 2007, ending 18 years in opposition for the JLP. His government restructured the country's debt and reached an agreement with the IMF, shoring up the economy amid the global financial turmoil. Jamaica is the only English-speaking Caribbean island where tourist numbers have kept on growing. Mr Golding's poll ratings are poor but not disastrous, with 32% approving of him in June, up from 25% a year earlier.
He said that the "challenges" of four years in office had "taken their toll". Most testing was an American request in August 2009 for the extradition of a leading drug "don", Christopher "Dudus" Coke. For months, the prime minister stalled, reluctant to take on a gang leader who ruled the streets in Mr Golding's own Kingston Western constituency, handing out school books and hosting Christmas parties. When the government finally moved against Mr Coke in May 2010, arresting and extraditing him, the confrontation left 73 dead. But it has been followed by a fall of more than 40% in the murder rate.
In 1995, as a youngish MP, Mr Golding called for a clean break with Jamaica's "garrison politics" in which both main parties formed alliances with local gang leaders. But in 2002 he replaced Edward Seaga, the JLP's veteran leader, inheriting his parliamentary seat through a by-election and with it the unwelcome problem of Mr Coke. "Dudus" seems to have damaged Mr Golding doubly: taking him on has turned the prime minister into an electoral liability in his own constituency, while his delay in doing so has hurt him nationally.
A general election must be held by the end of 2012. Nobody has yet claimed the JLP leadership, but it may pass to a younger generation. With a fragile economy, gang violence and pressures from the Americans, whoever wins will not have an easy job.
from the print edition | The Americas
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