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Roots of Jamaican Violence

As you may know, I went on a mission trip with my friend Mark W. to Jamaica in January of 2004 to help build an addition onto a church building in Grange Hill. In anticipation of making a return trip someday, I've been paying more attention to Jamaica in the news since then. I've posted several times before with bad news about the prevalence of violence in Jamaica in recent years. A recent article from the AP in The Washington Times comments about the source of violence in Jamaica:

The violence has its roots in the 1970s, when political factions armed gangs to intimidate opponents before the 1980 general elections. About 800 people were killed in election-related violence that year. Twenty-six years later, the politicians have lost control of the gangs. The slums have become patchwork battlefields, the ever-changing front lines between rival gangs marked by barricades of old refrigerators, junked cars and burning tires. Although the gangs do use strong-arm tactics, and even kill those who refuse to pay extortion, gang leaders, known as "dons," at times act as ad hoc civic leaders. Mr. Bennett, whose nickname was Bulbie, extorted money from businesses and ordered scores of rivals killed. But when he strode down Spanish Town's pitted streets, merchants would walk out to talk with him and seek favors or loans. Mr. Bennett was feared, but he also might pay the school fees for a promising neighborhood child, help provide hookups to electricity or work with politicians to get roads paved. Many poor Jamaicans, with few opportunities for advancement, have joined gangs to obtain material goods and respect.

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