Wyclef Jean is officially running for President of Haiti, and it wouldn’t be a political campaign without some mudslinging. Jean has already picked up several detractors, including Oscar nominee Sean Penn and his own Fugees bandmate, Pras. When you can’t even get the members of your own band to back you up, you know you’ve got a tough road ahead.
In this clip, Wyclef discusses with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer why he wanted to run for President of his home country.
“After January 12, the day after coming and being out here with my wife and picking up dead bodies from the ground,” says Jean, “I felt that because of the youth of Haiti and the population, this is not even Wyclef saying ‘I wanna be the president of Haiti’. I feel like I’ve been drafted by the population right now to give them a different voice.”
“The focus right now should definitely be education, job creation, agriculture, security and healthcare,” he added.
Not everyone is excited about the hip-hop star transitioning into politics, particularly since he’s seeking such a high office of a country that needs significant rebuilding. Oscar winner Sean Penn, who has been very active in helping Haiti following the disastrous earthquake, doesn’t think Wyclef is Haiti’s best option.
“Right now, I worry that this is a campaign that is more about a vision of flying around the world talking to people, it’s certainly not about the youth drafting him,” Penn said to CNN. “I would be quite sure that this was an influence of corporations here in the United States and private individuals that may well have capitalized on his will to see himself flying around the world doing that.”
“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… I want to see someone who’s really, really willing to sacrifice for their country and not just someone who I personally saw with a vulgar entourage of vehicles that demonstrated a wealth in Haiti that, in context, I felt, a very obscene demonstration.”
Penn makes it clear that he has nothing against Jean personally, but is just wary as Jean’s presence in the country has, in his opinion, been lacking. And Penn would know, since he himself has spent much of the past year in Haiti.
“One of the reasons I don’t know much about Wyclef Jean is I haven’t seen or heard anything in these last six months that I’ve been in Haiti. I think he’s an important voice, I hope he doesn’t sacrifice that voice by taking the eye off the very devastating realities off the ground and the very different strategic future it’s got in putting itself back together.”
Wyclef has since responded to Penn’s claims, saying, “I just want Sean Penn to fully understand I am a Haitian, born in Haiti and I’ve been coming to my country ever since (I was) a child. He might just want to pick up the phone and meet, so he fully understands the man.”
We’re not so certain meeting Jean would convince Penn any further, since Wyclef’s own bandmate from The Fugees, Pras, knows the hip-hop artist intimately and still does not support his run for President. Pras released a brief, yet still critical, statement: “I endorse Michel Martell as the next president of Haiti because he is the most competent candidate for the job.”
Short and to the point.