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State

Capital

Jamaica

Kingston

Currency unit

Jamaica $

Connections

Caribbean

Drugs

Empire

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

History

Jamaica is one of the larger Caribbean islands situated off the south coast of Cuba. It was visited by Columbus in 1494. His son supervised the first settlement in 1509. Named by original inhabitants. It then became a Spanish colony.

The native Arawaks were killed and Africans brought in as slaves. These appear to have been mostly Igbos from Nigeria.

The English captured it during the time of Oliver Cromwell in 1655. Many of the slaves then escaped and fled to the mountains where they maintained free villages (the Maroons), although the English military tried to capture them.

The English made it a center of the slave trade from Africa. They also planted sugar and other tropical crops, including coffee. The Plantation owners made huge fortunes that allowed them to build big houses in Britain. They also had political influence in Britain - lessening after the 1832 Reform Act.

The slaves were freed in 1838 after a slave general strike against the plantation owners. In 1865 there was a rebellion, mainly of the poor blacks, against the colonial government formed by the landowners and wealthy. The island was then made a British Crown colony (without local assembly), taking power away from the Plantation owners. An elected legislature was restored from 1884 when elected members were added to the existing appointed legislative council. Full representative government dates from 1944. Independence came in 1963 shortly after leaving the West Indies Federation.

Jamaica is an important center of African West Indian culture and is the source of many types of music and cultural activities (including the modern religion derived from African culture - Rastafarianism). Its main problems at present are rapidly increasing population (though the rate of increase is now slowing), a stagnating economy with large external debts and violent gangs of drug dealers.

How the British acquired the island

Languages

English

Creole

Yoruba

 History

 Economics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

Politics

Multi-party system with several changes of party since independence. This system seems likely to continue but the poverty and violence of the people threaten it. There are many guns in private hands and each political party appears to maintain gangs of thugs.

The Jamaica Labour Party has a conservative, free enterprise policy and represents the interests of businessmen and the United States, and is reputed to be close to gangster elements.

The People's National Party, at present in office, has a socialist policy, though much moderated in recent years, after pressure from the United States and the IMF. It too has violent gangs.

Are these parties actually in charge of the gangs, or are they so dependent on them that the gangs have captured the government?

As there has been change of government through elections Jamaica counts as a working democracy. In Elections of 31 March 1993 the PNP retained power. Elections are frequently accompanied by violence. How far the violence extends to those who benefit from it, the MPs and Ministers, is a question difficult for the outsider to answer.

The May 2010 attempt to arrest an alleged dug dealer for extradition to the United States revealed the extent that criminal gangs control even the constituency of the Prime Minister. There was a shoot out between police and military on the one side, and criminal gangs on the other. The situation for the very poor is similar to feudalism.

Interesting Reading

The Dead Yard - Ian Thomson

Dead Yard


The Wonderful Adventures of Mary Seacole



Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands (Penguin Classics)

 History

 Politics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

Economics

Member CARICOM

Main problem is failure to feed the people from own agriculture. The people are dependent on imported food. But the government has now removed subsidies, raising the cost of imported food and encouraging local farmers. In the long run this might be effective but in the short run it is hard on the poorer people.

The illegal economy, acting as an entrepot for drugs from South America on their way to North America and Europe, may well be more valuable than the official economy. Of course this affects the local people as well, some of whom are also addicts. Jamaican gangsters operate in the United States and Europe and control parts of the concentrated cocaine trade (crack).

Tourism is also important, largely in enclaves sealed off from the general population.

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Rights

 Climate

Green/Ecology

Some success in reducing birth rate. Original forests are much depleted.

The coasts might be suitable sites for Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion plants to produce non-carbon emitting energy, fresh water and mitigation of Hurricanes.

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

 Climate

Human Rights

There is a legal system based on the British model. Does it function? The presence of guns and quasi-mafia culture among the poor negates the legal system as witnesses are intimidated.

The police are reputed to be politically biased and corrupt. Severe cultural and legal hostility to homosexuals.

Climate effects

As the surface temperature of the surrounding sea rises the strength and frequency of hurricanes is likely to increase. Possible increase in rainfall leading to flooding and increased erosion of soil.

Last revised 13/07/11


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