Although he’s not expected to officially announce his plans to run for president of Haiti until a Thursday night (August 5) appearance on “Larry King Live,” [artist id=”1162″]Wyclef Jean[/artist] has given a number of interviews this week in the lead-up to the confirmation, explaining his motivation for seeking one of the most challenging jobs in the Western hemisphere.
“If not for the earthquake, I probably would have waited another 10 years before doing this,” Jean told Time magazine. “The quake drove home to me that Haiti can’t wait another 10 years for us to bring it into the 21st century.”
The January 12 quake, which killed more than 200,000 and left nearly 2 million homeless, flipped a switch in the rapper, who was born in Haiti and raised in Brooklyn. The devastation he saw in the days and weeks that followed as he helped on the ground in flattened capital Port-au-Prince to save lives made him realize that there is no contradiction between his artistic and political ambitions.
“If I can’t take five years out to serve my country as president,” he said, “then everything I’ve been singing about, like equal rights, doesn’t mean anything.”
The filing deadline for the November 28 election is Saturday and Jean — who once recorded a tune called “If I Was President” — plans to make a splash on King’s CNN show in order to kick off his campaign with a bang. In a country where half the population of 9 million is under the age of 25, Jean’s musical pedigree will surely be a huge asset to his campaign, and his celebrity promises to keep the often-wandering eye of the international press on his country’s most urgent needs.
“The suffering of the people of Haiti, the youth of Haiti — which is the majority of the population — can’t take another five years of the corruption that’s been going on for the past 200 years. This is why I’m running,” Jean told People magazine.
The 37-year-old married father said he’s aware that cynics will question the motivation for his run, his lack of political experience and the reports of financial impropriety within his Yéle Haiti aid organization in the past.
“[My platform] has four pillars: education, job creation, instilling security into the culture, and how do we get our agriculture back? … Politics is a combat sport, so I expect nothing less than to be attacked every day,” he said, adding that the focus should be “how we help get the Haitian people out of this mess.”
After criticism that Yéle Haiti made payments to businesses owned by Jean and complaints from a boardmember about high administrative costs, Jean said the organization has become more transparent and brought in a new accounting firm and CEO to clear up any issues. (He’s not quite out of the woods, though, as TheSmokingGun.com reported on Wednesday that the IRS has hit ’Clef with $2.1 million in tax liens covering his tax returns from 2006, 2007 and 2008.)
As for his lack of political experience, Jean noted that he’s been a UN Goodwill ambassador for three years and that he’s learned a lot from helping run his nonprofit. Though he has a new album, Haitian Experience, due in December, Jean said his music career is currently on hold so he can focus on the presidential run.
“Automatically, when people first see me they’re going to say, ’Isn’t that the guy from the Fugees?’ ” Jean said of the famous rap trio he fronted in the ’90s. “But I’m hoping that next they’ll say, ’OK, he knows what he’s talking about.’ ”
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