Wyclef Jean to Run for President of Haiti: Does He Have What It Takes?

"His presidential run, win or lose, could build a long-awaited bridge between Haiti and its diaspora"

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Rapper Wyclef Jean has confirmed the rumors: he's running for president of Haiti. The former Fugees frontman was born in Port-au-Prince and has long supported relief efforts in his native country. "If I can't take five years out to serve my country as President," he tells Time magazine. "Then everything I've been singing about, like equal rights, doesn't mean anything."

The Caribbean nation is still reeling from the massive earthquake that left 250,000 people dead and 1.5 million homeless in January. Jean is expected to make the official announcement on Larry King Live on Thursday.

  • Wyclef's Intentions Are Pure, writes Tim Padgett at Time:
It's tempting to dismiss this as flaky performance art, a publicity stunt from the same guy who just a few years ago recorded a number called "President" that included the refrain "If I was President." But Jean's chances as well as his motives seem solid. And there are good reasons for Haitians — and the U.S.-led international donor community, which is bankrolling Haiti's long slog to the 21st century — to take this particular hip-hop politician seriously. Pop-culture celebrity hardly disqualifies you from high office today. (The last time I looked, an action hero was still running California.) And in Haiti, where half the population of about 9 million is under age 25, it's an asset as golden as a rapper's chains. Amid Haiti's gray postquake rubble, Jean is far more popular with that young cohort than their chronically corrupt and inept mainstream politicians are, and he'll likely galvanize youth participation in the election.
  • His Relief Work Is Not Without Controversy, writes Trenton Daniel at the Miami Herald: "His Yéle Haiti Foundation has raised millions, some from text donations shortly after the earthquake. The charity has come under scrutiny over how it spends the funds donated to it on behalf of Haiti... Reports surfaced in January that the foundation paid Jean to perform at fundraising events and that a station he owns sold the charity advertising. Jean acknowledged on Oprah and other shows that the foundation had been poorly run and he hired a new accounting firm."
  • Let's Have a Look at the Competition, writes Frances Martel at Mediaite: "If he runs, he will be running against 'dozens' of like-minded people that want to run the nation, including one of his uncles, Raymond Joseph, Haiti’s ambassador to the US. 'Other likely candidates,' the AP report continues, 'include former prime ministers, mayors and another popular Haitian musician, Michel (Sweet Micky) Martelly.'"
  • He's the Arnold-Equivalent, writes Ernie Smith at Short Form Blog: "He’s like Arnold Schwarzeneg­ger in 2003. He’s famous and rid­ing a strong wave of good will, and that high pro­file and good will may actu­ally be help­ful in rebuild­ing earthquake-torn Haiti, because (while he may only come with a level of polit­i­cal expe­ri­ence equiv­a­lent to Alvin Greene) he has charisma and can keep the tragedy on people’s minds. Some­one has to."
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