Seems like Wyclef Jean has to come face to face with a slew of critics in the inaugural push for his presidential campaign. From actor Sean Penn to Minister Louis Farrakhan, the high-profile jabs make for some juicy sound-byte material. But there’s also substance, especially when it comes to Wyclef’s past political ties.
Charlie Hinton wrote a scathing critique in the San Francisco Bay View. Hinton, a member of the Haiti Action Committee, sketched out Jean’s opposition to popular Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was ousted in 2004 and has since remained exiled in South Africa.
Jean comes from a prominent Haitian family that has virulently opposed Lavalas since the 1990 elections. His uncle is Raymond Joseph – also a rumored presidential candidate – who became Haitian ambassador to the United States under the coup government and remains so today. Kevin Pina writes in "It’s not all about that! Wyclef Jean is fronting in Haiti," Joseph is "the co-publisher of Haiti Observateur, a right-wing rag that has been an apologist for the killers in the Haitian military going back as far as the brutal coup against Aristide in 1991. "On Oct. 26  Haitian police entered the pro-Aristide slum of Fort Nationale and summarily executed 13 young men. Wyclef Jean said nothing. On Oct. 28 the Haitian police executed five young men, babies really, in the pro-Aristide slum of Bel Air. Wyclef said nothing. If Wyclef really wants to be part of Haiti’s political dialogue, he would acknowledge these facts. Unfortunately, Wyclef is fronting.
Let us be clear. Jean and his uncle, the Haitian ambassador to the U.S., are both cozy with the self-appointed czar of Haiti, Bill Clinton, whose plans for the Caribbean nation are to make it a neo-colony for a reconstructed tourist industry and a pool of cheap labor for U.S. factories. Wyclef Jean is the perfect front man. The Haitian elite and its U.S./U.N. sponsors are counting on his appeal to the youth to derail the people’s movement for democracy and their call for the return of President Aristide. Most Haitians will not be hoodwinked by the likes of Wyclef Jean.
Clearly, even though Jean has tried to hold on to his Haitian roots by refusing to become an American citizen and routinely brandishing his Haitian Passport, his detractors think he’s way out of touch.
To make matters worse, poor Wyclef can’t even get former Fugees bandmate Pras to back his presidential bid. In an article on Music Mix Pras explains Jean’s shortcomings:
I love Wyclef to death … We came up together, we grew up together, we basically called each other cousins. But the reality is this, we need a real leader.
Not just a regular leader," he continued, "but a transformative leader. Someone that’s gonna be able to galvanise the Haitians down on the field, the Haitian-Americans, the international community. It’s a collective support–to take this country to the 21st century. And I’m just not convinced Wyclef is the one for that.
In a less warm and fuzzy critique, Sean Penn who has been living in Haiti off and on since January’s earthquake, had this to say to reporters:
This is somebody who’s going to receive an enormous amount of support from the United States, and I have to say I’m very suspicious of it, simply because he, as an ambassador at large, has been virtually silent. For those of us in Haiti, he has been a non-presence.
The sentiment also extends to the Nation of Islam. Back in late February during the annual Saviors’ Day Convention, Minister Louis Farrkan gave a speech warning Jean to resist becoming mixed up in Haiti’s political process:
…Because when your heart is for your people there are those who have always corrupted the leadership of Haiti. And right now like vultures, they gather around a famous brother because they suspect a future for him back in Haiti and they want to get their claws into the brother so that if he goes back to serve he’ll be their man.
Bottom line: Folks are skeptical of the singer turning his hit song "If I Was President" into reality.
But we want to toss the question out to our readers. What do you think of Wyclef’s run? Leave it in the comments.