More Skepticism Voiced About Wyclef Jean Candidacy for President of Haiti
And it’s not only Sean “Nobel Prize?” Penn.
But for all his renown as a musician, charity provider and above all Haitian-born success story, a stark fact remains the morning after: Few in this impoverished and often rudderless country know who he really is, what he stands for, or what is driving him to seek the presidency.
Wyclef Jean has not spent five consecutive years in the country, and having a residence there may not even count, although I’m sure the strings are being pulled and the hands are being greased for constitutional lawyers and justices to ignore or revise this requirement.
Wyclef Jean speaks Kréyol aïsyen (Haitian Creole French) with a definite American English accent. It’s not his fault that English is his first language, but this may be a definite drawback with some voters.
He never completed college, although some South American presidents who have done well for their people can share this distinction, whether they were backed up by the military or not.
He has no experience in helping to run a country either as a representative of a region or a city. Unfortunately, this appeals to those who are open to electing an outsider untainted by the usual bunch of politicians who say one thing and do another.
The Observer also mentioned that Bill Clinton also likes Jean, confirming earlier suspicions I voiced. That might be the kiss of death for the 32 other candidates, Jean’s controversial uncle included, who are going for the presidency. As I said before in a previous post, Clinton is in my view the de facto president of the country. Clinton embracing Wyclef Jean as his guy should tell folks to expect the worst. Check:
In his interview with The Associated Press, Jean praised former US President Bill Clinton’s vision for Haiti’s economy and said he would also work to attract foreign investment in agriculture, mining and the garment export industry — positions which Clinton readily admits will make Haiti’s elites richer while growing a middle class.
Clinton, who co-chairs the international commission overseeing a pledged $5.3 billion in reconstruction aid to Haiti, praised Jean but said he wanted to stay out of Haitian politics as the campaign season heats up.
“I consider him a friend of mine,” Clinton, who as president restored [Jean Bertrand] Aristide to power, told The Associated Press on Friday. “I also have a high regard for the former prime minister (Alexis)… I just want them to have a good election and I want it to reinforce, not undermine the reconstruction of the country.”
Aristide, who lives in South African exile, has not endorsed a candidate. His Fanmi Lavalas party is expected to be banned from the race.
Clinton saying he wanted to stay out of Haitian politics is like telling a fish to stay out of water. Don’t even think that he ain’t talking to the boy or his uncle or others through intermediaries.
Ansel Herz, a independent freelance journalist who has been writing for Mediahacker since 2009, had a scathing piece in the Saturday New York Daily News about Jean and his campaign.
Now, when asked about his political platform, Jean repeats vague platitudes about the need to create jobs, support Haitian agriculture and attract foreign investment – nearly identical rhetoric to that of the currently ruling Preval administration.
One difference is that Jean isn’t capable of explaining his plans in French, the language of Haiti’s government, because he doesn’t speak it. His brother describes Jean’s Creole as “rusty.” It’s spoken with a thick American accent.
Jean doesn’t speak the languages fluently because he hasn’t lived in Haiti recently. He’s hoping authorities will waive the Haitian constitution’s requirement that candidates live in-country for the five years preceding the ballot.
That’s not an indication of a deep respect for constitutional law. Nor was his praise in interviews of armed rebels who rampaged through the Haitian countryside in 2004. The rebels were part of a campaign by the elite and foreign governments to oust then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Aristide tried to raise the minimum wage and win reparations from France, the island’s former colonial power.
At the time, this is what Jean said of the men: “I don’t consider those people rebels. It’s people standing up for their rights. It’s not like these people just appeared out of nowhere and said, ‘Let’s cause some trouble.’ I think it’s just built up frustration, anger, hunger, depression.”
Raymond Joseph, a close member of Jean’s family, became an ambassador in the de facto government that murdered and jailed scores of Aristide supporters after the ’04 coup d’etat. Needless to say, Jean didn’t speak out against that violence.
And yeah, I will mention some of what Sean Penn had to say about Wyclef Jean through Tavis Smiley’s blog. Yes, Penn is a rich white actor who some claim is homophobic despite his Oscar-winning role as gay activist icon Harvey Milk and who has been known to manhandle women (like former wives Madonna and Robin Wright Penn). And Penn was in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina rescuing scores of American black people marooned by the floods.
However, Sean Penn has nothing to lose in speaking out. He doesn’t have a horse in this race as much as Bill Clinton or Raymond Joseph. Penn’s boots, like that of Ansel Herz’, have been on the ground for more than six months regarding the state of affairs in Haiti since the quake. He is an expert on this situation as well as what happened during Katrina. And what he has to say should be taken as a warning. Where does exploitation begin and paternalism end in a place where these lines have been blurred for hundreds of years?
In an impassioned, slightly scattered speech, Penn expressed his doubts about Jean’s motives and abilities to lead the devastated nation. “What the Haitian people need now is a leader who’s genuinely willing to sacrifice. One of the reasons I don’t know very much about Wyclef Jean is I haven’t seen or heard anything of him in these last six months that I’ve been in Haiti.”
Penn went on to suggest that the former Fugees frontman may also be in the pocket of corporate interests with an eye to exploiting the demand for resources and employment in Haiti…
As I said before, the prospect of this young man becoming president of Haiti does not fill me with exultation. It’s not generational either. And Wyclef Jean doesn’t have to be a Rhodes scholar. He simply shouldn’t be a pushover who will make the plight of his countrymen even worse. Just step back and think about this. Because the fix may indeed be in.