Ever since a massive earthquake struck his homeland of Haiti on January 12, former Fugees leader Wyclef Jean has been at the forefront of relief efforts for the perennially impoverished Caribbean nation.
But now the 37-year-old rapper, who was born on the outskirts of the country’s now-devastated capital of Port-au-Prince and who helped anchor MTV’s “Hope for Haiti Now” telethon , appears to be mulling an even larger role in the rebuilding of his ancestral home. Rumors have emerged over the past week that ’Clef — who was named ambassador-at-large for the country by current President Rene Preval in 2007 — is considering a run for president.
Haiti’s new president will be chosen in elections happening on November 28; the winner is expected to be sworn in on February 7, 2011. Preval is barred from seeking re-election because he will have served two terms, which is the maximum in Haiti, once his current five-year term ends next year.
While Wyclef, who is likely the most well-known potential candidate, hasn’t made any definitive statement about his intentions, his family released a statement in response to the speculation: “Wyclef’s commitment to his homeland and its youth is boundless, and he will remain its greatest supporter regardless of whether he is part of the government moving forward. At this time, Wyclef Jean has not announced his intent to run for Haitian president. If and when a decision is made, media will be alerted immediately.”
In a recent interview with the Associated Press, Jean — who was born in Haiti but grew up in Brooklyn — said he was planning to be involved in the elections, but not necessarily as a candidate.
“Do I have political intentions? At this time, no,” he said. “But what I do have is a movement — it’s called Face à Face,, ’Face to Face.’ The youth population … we are going to encourage them to vote.” Jean has raised money for Haitian youth through his Yele Haiti Foundation, which hired a new accounting firm after allegations arose about some financial irregularities in the wake of the January quake.
The AP noted that even if Jean did change his mind and decide to throw his hat in the ring by the August 7 deadline, his celebrity would not guarantee an easy road as a candidate in a country where elections are often contentious and violent. There is also the matter of the massive destruction caused by the quake, which has displaced more than 1.5 million Haitians in a country that has not had a functioning economy in decades.
In order to enter the race, Jean would have to prove he has resided in Haiti for five consecutive years, owns property in the country and has never been a citizen of any other country than Haiti; it was unclear at press time if Jean fits those criteria.
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