As many of you know, singer and producer Wyclef Jean announced his candidacy for president of the country of Haiti. There has been a lot of feedback to this decision – ranging from anger and disgust, to an outpouring of support!
Even Sean Penn has voiced his concern over Wyclef running for president. Stating that he may be nothing more than a puppet of big corporations that have pledged their support of his campaign and Haiti, but do not have pure motives.
As many of you know, I serve as the treasurer for a non profit orphanage located in Haiti. Our building was destroyed in the earthquake, and we are still looking for a permanent home for the children (if you would like to donate, click here). Because of my position in this organization, many people have asked for my opinion of Wyclef’s desire to become president.
I guess I’ll issue a disclaimer now…I do not know Wyclef Jean personally, nor do I claim to know his intentions outside of what he says. I am not from Haiti, but I’m sure I pay more attention to what goes on there than the average American. What you are about to read is my opinion and does not represent the viewpoint of the OASIS for Children orphanage.
I think that rather than try to dissect every piece of his character, it would be better to look at what he has to overcome. Some of these things are common to all 38 candidates, but some are unique to Wyclef.
Here are some of the challenges he will face:
Earning the trust of the Haitian citizens:
This is going to be a very difficult thing for Wyclef to do. My scientific analysis (reading my Haitian friends’ statuses on Facebook 😉 ), tells me that many Haitians are skeptical of this move. He left Haiti and came to America as a child, and has lived here ever since.
How can the people of Haiti really feel connected to someone who left them over 30 years ago? Yes, he still has family in Haiti (his uncle is actually running against him), yes he goes back there often, yes he writes, sings, and talks about Haiti all the time, but this will not be enough for many of the people he is seeking to lead.
Many Haitians have stated that they feel that Wyclef is taking advantage of them and their struggles in order to profit himself (either through popularity, influence, or support for his charity).
While he has definitely used his star power to bring the problems of his homeland to the forefront of American thought, the timing of this move has lead to a lot of questions:
Is Wyclef just trying to take advantage of the earthquake and gain more notoriety for himself?
Is he being selfish and egotistical, or looking out for his countrymen?
Would it be better for him to get behind the best candidate and give them the support they need?
Does he really understand the needs of the Haitian citizens?
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Earning the respect of other Haitian leaders:
This may be even harder than getting the people on his side. If he wins his bid to become president, he will have to deal with a lot of jealousy from the other politicians in Haiti. Anytime it seems as though someone was “given” something that others have had to work hard for, it can cause ill feelings.
Even some of the celebrities turned politicians in this country remain the butt of jokes after having strong political careers (i.e. Reagan, Bono, Schwarzenegger, and Ventura) – rather than being judged by their political accomplishments (whether good or bad). Wyclef will have a tough time getting the leadership in Haiti to view him as a serious political figure, rather than a musician who won a popularity contest.
It will be difficult for him to convince them of his views, or even to negotiate and compromise with them. Haiti cannot afford to have leaders who are not united (just look at how dysfunctional the US can seem at times), because they do not have the economic power to overcome disunity.
These other leaders may only see him as someone who is ignorant of Haitian law and politics attempting to lead the country out of a tragedy that has killed, wounded, or displaced well over 1 million people!
He has to be able to convince his peers that he can negotiate, make tough decisions, gain the trust of the people, make Haiti matter in the eyes of other countries, and have no other distractions – this sounds like a lot for someone with no political experience.
Earning the trust of the international community:
Haiti cannot make it on it’s own. There has been too much devastation over the last few centuries, and most recently this earthquake that has altered the lives of millions.
Former US president Bill Clinton told the associated press last month that international donors have paid about 10% of the aid that they promised after the earthquake hit on January 12, 2010. He also stated that most of that aid has come in the form of debt relief instead of actual cash.
The new president will have to be an ambassador to all nations. Unfortunately Haiti has a terrible image within other countries. Among other West Indian countries, the people have a reputation of migrating to their lands and bringing guns and drugs (again from my non-scientific conversations with friends and family from those places); and among many developed nations, the Haitian politicians and financial elite have a reputation of corruption and taking advantage of the poor.
Wyclef will have to instill so much confidence among other nations, that they will be willing to ignore all of these stereotypes and past realities, and pledge their resources to assisting Haiti. He must also maintain strong, steady relationships with these nations to ensure that they follow though on their promises (once the cameras are turned off) – this will involve convincing them that Haiti is a place worth the investment.
Controversy over non-profit and personal taxes:
Haiti is a country that has been marred by corruption for a very long time. The last thing that Haiti needs is for the rest of the world to think that they have another corrupt politician leading the nation!
Unfortunately, a look into the tax returns of Wyclef’s charity “Yele” shows that he (or companies that he owns) was paid about 40% of all net revenue in 2006. He still has yet to issue an acceptable statement (please correct me if I’m wrong about this) explaining why most of the donations collected through his charity go toward administrative costs, rather than to the people of Haiti. This will definitely haunt him during his campaign.
Now a report has surfaced stating that Wyclef owes over $2 million in taxes and that the IRS has placed several liens against him! These go back to tax years 2006 – 2008, so he will definitely have some ‘splainin to do!
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Lack of a strong political platform:
So far, Wyclef has released nothing but vague, empty, rhetoric about “change” and “hope” (of course this was very successful a couple of years ago in this country 🙄 ). Since he has just announced his intentions, this may slide for a couple of weeks, but eventually people will demand details.
From what I can tell, he hopes that the work of rebuilding the nation and moving the displaced earthquake victims will be enough to spur an economic revival (similar to that of Japan after World War 2).
I would agree with this assessment if Haiti was a highly functioning nation before the earthquake. However, the nation was in shambles BEFORE January 12, 2010, and will take more than a few government contracts to turn the nation around. Maybe they should start building a bunch of 89 square foot homes.
In his speaking and writing, he reminds me of Sarah Palin – full of energy and excitement, but very ignorant of the real issues. Hopefully, this will change quickly if he is to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate.
Overall, I would rather have him find a candidate that he agrees with and put his power and influence behind them. He can be extremely active in bringing about change – especially by changing the image that the rest of the world has of Haiti.
Ultimately, I think it will be extremely difficult for an uneducated foreigner (essentially) to come into a country that was just devastated for the 100th time, and become the supreme leader; because of all of the challenges listed above.
He spoke of the importance of teaching his daughter to make a difference in a recent open letter. He should also consider how these controversies will affect him and his family during and after the campaign. Once he sees how unrelenting the media and his opponents can be, that may be enough to cause him to withdraw.
Questions for you:
How do you feel about Wyclef running for president? Do you think one of the other candidates will make a better leader? Will he win the youth of Haiti like he plans to? Would you vote for him? Do you want an explanation about his taxes or payments from his charity?
I look forward to your comments – even though we are discussing politics, I expect it to remain civil! Oh, and if you REALLY want to support KNS Financial, buy Wyclef’s song “If I was President” using the link below:
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