Wyclef Jean, who announced yesterday that he will seek the presidency in Haiti, has now told the Associated Press exactly how he intends to rebuild the poorest nation in the hemisphere.
In an interview at his Port-au-Prince hotel, Jean told the AP that he backs programs put forward by a more traditional leader, former president Bill Clinton, in his work as a United Nations special envoy after the Haiti earthquake. Those include supporting the garment industry, boosting tourism, and encouraging agriculture so the island is less dependent on imported food. Jean said he would also like to see donors investing in education and a concentration on developing potential mineral wealth.
But the Port-au-Prince–born singer, who is running on the Viv Ansanm party ticket, has an uphill battle to prove to Haiti and the world that he can make the transition from musician to national leader. In his filing papers Jean's age has jumped from the 37 he cited as a pop star to 40. He earns, according to the AP, about $18 million a year. The average Haitian earns about $730. The Web site The Smoking Gun has uncovered IRS filings that show he owes U.S. authorities $2.1 million in unpaid taxes. And controversy over misappropriated funds at his charity, Yele Haiti, persists.
Even before he addresses those difficulties—in a political climate that is apparently particularly harsh and unforgiving—he must prove to an eight-person election council that he has not renounced his Haitian passport by taking an American one, and that he has been resident in the country for the last five years (which, by almost any measure, he has not). The campaign reportedly will argue that his role as a U.N. special ambassador for Haiti exempts him from this rule. "I am a Haitian, born in Haiti, and I've been coming to my country ever since [I was] a child," he told the AP in response to assertions by another celebrity—Sean Penn, inevitably—that he had not spent enough time on the island.