Our social troubles have even made international news. Jamaica’s political corruption was highlighted with the extradition of Christopher “Dudus” Coke, a drug lord with ties to the Jamaican Labor Party. Then-Prime Minister Bruce Golding resigned after allegations were made that he tried to protect Dudus by lobbying on his behalf with the American government.
Ties Jamaica maintains with larger, wealthier nations like America have been a mixed blessing for the land. While Jamaica is no longer a colony of a Western overlord, it is still dependent on first world countries for aid and trade. The American hunger for drugs and American guns ported into Jamaica have created a culture of violence on the island in which drug dealers wield more power than politicians. Earlier this year, Jamaican police burned over 2,000 American-made guns that were smuggled in — but thousands of other guns, it is presumed, crossed the border without detection.
As Jamaica grows, its place in the international market place continues to be complex.
Once known for importing marijuana, Jamaica, like many other Latin American and Caribbean countries, has become a hub for cocaine distribution coming from South America, flowing into the United States. The trial of Dudus illustrated how cocaine is typically smuggled from Jamaica to the U.S., and how guns in return were smuggled back from the United States.
The Dudus case showed how money from American cocaine sales and U.S. guns could overpower even officials of an elected democracy. The larger question of course is why the illegal drug trade that is linked to American appetites has such a powerful sway on the inner politics and economy of a sovereign nation.
Jamaica has a voice to expose these problems to the world so we can find solutions to a global system that leaves poor countries in a position that keeps them in a cycle of poverty and violence. Reggae musicians such as Bob Marley, Richie Spice, and Morgan Heritage have long condemned the system of first world exploitation of Jamaica, and the poverty and political violence it creates. Conscious reggae always has been, and always will be, a political means that encourages Jamaican citizens to look towards positive goals.
Also, there are many initiatives in place to make sure that Jamaica excels in agriculture, as well as technology. Recently Yvonne Sobers McCalla was named chairwoman of the e-learning entity Jamaica Company Limited, which seeks to shrink the global digital divide in primary school education, while making sure that Jamaicans stay on the cutting edge of technology. (Yvonne Sobers McCalla is the aunt of the author.)
Jamaica also has started the Grow Up Your Backyard initiative, which encourages Jamaican people to grow and plant their own food rather than depend on food shipped from the United States.
While Jamaica has often been criticized for its treatment of homosexuals, the Jamaican People’s National Party ran a campaign that preached tolerance of homosexuality in last year’s election, and won in a landslide.
Jamaica elected Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller for the second time in 2011, and she was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. While Miller openly embraced Prince Harry, the media darling from Jamaica’s former colonial ruler of England, during his recent visit, she also has made calls for reparations from England in a bold voice.
It’s leadership examples such as these that show Jamaica’s future is bright. Using this light to illuminate its problems — to find solutions — is the key to building up the country even further.
Happy 50th Independence Day Jamaica! Here’s hoping that the next 50 will bring peace, prosperity and a continued blossoming of the grand Jamaican spirit.
Follow Casey Gane-McCalla on Twitter at @CaseyGane