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Jamaica Modern History

Since independence from the British in 1962, the right-wing Jamaica's Labor Party (JLP) and the Socialist People's Nationalist Party (PNP) have been reversed by government. The era since the 1960s has been characterized by an economic roller coaster, social unrest and gang crime.

Jamaica became an independent state on August 6, 1962 after gradually gaining self-government from the colonial power of Britain (see Older History). The ruling right-wing party JLP retained power in the 1967 parliamentary elections. JLP pursued a Western-friendly policy and encouraged foreign investment in the country. Capital flowed to the island, whose mining industry expanded. This resulted in high economic growth, while the social gaps increased. Tensions led to violence, and demands for social reform laid the foundation for a change of government.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Jamaica. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

In the 1972 election, the Socialist PNP took power under Michael Manley, son of the party's founder Norman Manley (see Older History). His political line was called "democratic socialism", which meant the stateization of certain industries, land reform, social reforms, free schooling and adult education. Foreign policy, Jamaica was striving for stronger relations with the Third World, not least Cuba.

Contemporary History of JamaicaEconomic crisis and social unrest

The long economic upswing broke in 1973, when international oil prices soared. The economy shrank for the rest of the decade. During its second term (1976-1980), the PNP faced increasing problems and dissatisfaction grew.

The electoral movement in 1980 became the most violent country. Over 1,000 people were killed and emergency permits were introduced. PNP lost big and JLP took over with party leader Edward Seaga as prime minister.

Seaga again began to pursue a Western-friendly policy and sought close ties with the United States in hopes of attracting foreign capital to the country. He also sought financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). However, the economy did not improve, instead Jamaica became increasingly dependent on US aid.

Government popularity temporarily increased in 1983 when Jamaica participated with a force in the US-led invasion of Grenada. Seaga seized the opportunity and announced new elections. The election held in December was boycotted by the PNP in protest that the voting lengths had not been updated. The JLP won all the seats in Parliament. The next few years became concerned with continued financial problems. Demolished food subsidies and other price increases led to demonstrations and occasional violence.

In September 1988, Jamaica was hit by "Gilbert", the worst hurricane in the country's modern history. Over 100,000 homes were destroyed and large parts of agriculture were knocked out. Seaga was criticized for favoring JLP supporters when emergency aid was distributed.

PNP dominates politics

The 1989 election resulted in PNP regaining power. Prime Minister Michael Manley had embraced the idea of ​​market-oriented reforms and the Socialist government was now pursuing an economic policy in line with IMF recommendations. That resulted in growth, but the Jamaican dollar collapsed in value when it was released in 1990. The collapse led to rapid price increases on imported goods, and PNP's popularity fell as fast as the currency.

After a short period of stronger economic growth, the country was hit by a series of strikes, at the same time as the government was forced to take large sums from the Treasury to save the crisis-hit financial sector.

In March 1992, Manley resigned for health reasons and was succeeded by Deputy Prime Minister and PNP leader Percival Patterson. PNP also won the 1993, 1997 and 2002 elections, which was largely due to internal struggles within the JLP. The JLP conflict culminated in 1995 when Seaga's Crown Prince Bruce Golding broke out and formed the National Democratic Movement (NDM). Prior to the 2002 election, however, Golding returned to JLP and replaced Seaga at the party leader post.

"Last P" becomes Prime Minister

Since Patterson announced that he wanted to resign, PNP appointed Portia Simpson Miller as new party leader in early 2006. Thus, Jamaica also got its first female prime minister. The choice of "Last P" (Sister P) split the PNP, as several party members reacted to her poor background. But her upbringing in the slums also made her popular among the poor, women and unemployed.

However, it was not enough to keep the PNP in power when the parliamentary elections were held in September 2007. After 18 years in opposition, the JLP won by very little margin and Bruce Golding became the new prime minister.

The JLP government announced that its highest priority was to fight violence and corruption in society. A special ombudsman responsible for combating corruption was established and an independent investigation into the use of force within the police and the army was appointed.

The "Dudus" Coke grips

However, gang-related violence indirectly became a reason why Bruce Golding eventually resigned, as both head of government and party leader. Golding had been criticized for long opposing the extradition of a drug king, Christopher "Dudus" Coke, to the United States.

When Coke, who had his base in Golding's constituency in Kingston, was yet to be arrested, violence broke out between security forces and gang members. An emergency permit was issued but the violence lasted for several weeks and became among the bloodiest in the country's history. Over 70 people were killed, the vast majority of civilians.

Golding resigned just over a year later, in September 2011, and partially cited criticism of him for the Coke affair. Golding was succeeded by Education Minister Andrew Holness, who immediately announced parliamentary elections. Holness hoped to strengthen its mandate to continue pursuing economic reform policy. But the election was a setback for JLP, which received only a third of the mandate.

Following the election held in December 2011, PNP leader Portia Simpson Miller returned as prime minister. She still had great support from the country's poor, who were tired of the lack of jobs and housing, sky-high electricity prices and an uncertain supply of water.

Restructuring of debts

The PNP faced major challenges and during the mandate period, wage hikes were introduced, while purchasing power eroded when the Jamaican dollar lost in value. The tightening yielded results as growth increased, albeit from a low level.

Simpson Miller managed to negotiate a new loan agreement by the IMF, on condition that the government implemented cuts. When the government announced that thousands of jobs in the public sector would disappear, the trade union movement protested. But according to the Prime Minister, it was absolutely necessary to push down the country's large government debt (see Economic overview).

The government also agreed to continue to fight the widespread violent crime, which has slowed somewhat since the 2010 violence, among other things, a campaign was launched to destroy thousands of illegal weapons and ammunition that the police had seized. But the declining violence trend reversed in 2015 when the number of murders again increased substantially.

At the end of January 2016, Simpson Miller announced elections that were held a month later.

 
 

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