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Wednesday, 11 July, 2001, 07:32 GMT 08:32 UK
Analysis: Violence rooted in politics
Kingston street scene
So far the violence has stayed in Kingston
By the BBC's Iain Haddow

The violence which has erupted in Jamaica has been linked to long-running gang rivalry in the capital, Kingston, which has given the island one of the highest murder rates in the world.

Violence in Jamaica is nothing new - fighting between rival gangs affiliated to the two main political parties can be traced to the period after independence from the colonial power, Britain.


Back then, the two main parties helped organise support in the poor neighbourhoods of Kingston, spawning a series of deadly turf wars.

The killings reached a height in 1980, when an estimated 700 people died in election-related violence.

But political allegiances are not the only reason for Jamaica's high murder rate.

The heavily-armed groups also control the island's lucrative drugs trade, and gun battles between them are not uncommon.

International criticism

The response of the Jamaica police has been woefully inadequate.

They have been sharply criticised by international human rights groups, who accuse them of shooting suspects first and asking questions later.

So far the violence has been contained in Kingston.

But the government has placed the army on high alert.

Ministers are fully aware that if the shootings spill over to other areas, they are likely to affect Jamaica's international image.

And that could drive away the millions of tourists upon which the economy is so dependent.

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See also:

10 Jul 01 | Americas
Jamaica army out in force
10 Jul 01 | Americas
Gun battles shake Jamaica
10 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Blairs to visit Jamaica despite violence
10 Jul 01 | Americas
Jamaica seeks help to stop violence
29 Mar 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Jamaica
29 Mar 01 | Americas
Timeline: Jamaica
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