Scores of South Florida Jamaican leaders, troubled at the unfolding crisis back home, gathered at a Miami Gardens church Wednesday to express their concerns and call on government officials to move quickly to solve the problem.
The South Florida Jamaicans said they planned to submit a report to the Jamaican government summarizing the sometimes raucous public forum at the Holy Family Episcopal Church.
The state of Florida is home to some 250,000 Jamaicans, many of whom live in Broward and maintain strong business and family ties to the island.
Jamaican government officials came to reiterate their positions that they were committed to stemming the violence, and one minister who took the lectern acknowledged that a "long history" of insecurity has prevailed in the island nation. The current street clashes in Kingston were a "necessary evil" that would yield "better times," she said.
"Make no mistake, this is war -- war against crime and violence," said Marlene Malahoo Forte, minister of state in the Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade ministry. "So how do I look at this? This kind of uprising had to take place."
At least 48 Jamaicans have been killed surrounding the attempts to arrest suspected drug trafficker Christopher "Dudus" Coke, who's wanted on a U.S. Justice Department warrant. Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who represents Coke's Tivoli Gardens stronghold in parliament, has been accused of protecting him for nine months. After months of denials, Golding recently admitted that he sanctioned a U.S. law firm's work on the Coke case.
A few members of the audience used the occasion to blast a political system that has long curried favor with gangs while not paying enough attention to education, health care, and other urgent needs.
One asked about Coke's whereabouts. And a few even called for Golding's resignation. Golding has said he offered his resignation but the executive of his Jamaica Labour Party did not accept it.
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