*Accompanied by his wife and 5-year-old daughter, rapper/musician Wyclef Jean has submitted the necessary paperwork to run for president in his native Haiti.
The potential front-runner in Haiti’s Nov. 28 election held a rally in capital Port-au-Prince to announce his candidacy, and spoke with the Associated Press about his vision for the impoverished nation he left as a child.
The ex-Fugee frontman said as president he would encourage donors to invest heavily in education, the AP reported. He also endorsed the economic vision promoted by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, the U.N. special envoy who is in Haiti this week. Those plans include creating jobs in the garment export industry, boosting tourism and building the capacity of Haitian farmers to reduce the nation’s chronic dependence on imports.
“President Clinton is focusing on the garment industry and all that. I think that’s great. But also agriculture is involved,” Jean said. “We can work both components at the same time.”
Among other potential investment targets he mentioned mining, an industry whose ramping up amid the rising price of gold and other minerals has sparked controversy in the neighboring Dominican Republic.
He responded directly Thursday to a revelation published this week on the U.S.-based website The Smoking Gun concerning his unpaid U.S. taxes.
“First of all, owing $2.1 million to the IRS shows you how much money Wyclef Jean makes a year,” he said, pledging to publish an accounting of his finances online and to repay the money he owes.
The singer also fumed when aides told him that actor Sean Penn, who has been managing an earthquake-survivor camp in the Haitian capital since the spring, had accused Jean of not spending enough time in Haiti after the quake and misappropriating $400,000 of the $9 million his charity, Yele Haiti, raised after the disaster. [See video below.]
“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 said. “He might just want to pick up the phone and meet, so he fully understands the man.”
Jean stepped down from his chairmanship of Yele on Thursday ahead of his run for office. The organization has been accused of pre-quake financial improprieties that benefited the singer.
On Thursday, Jean took the stage at his rally as supporters sang a traditional pro-Aristide song, replacing the exiled leader’s name with Jean’s. Asked what prompted that particular tune, Jean replied he hadn’t picked it.
The singer ultimately sees himself as an advocate for Haiti’s struggling youth. Officially running under the banner of the Viv Ansanm party — whose name means “live together” — Jean is more heavily promoting his youth movement called “Fas a Fas,” meaning face-to-face.
“Even if I lose, I win,” he said. “It gives us an opportunity to be a voice to speak to government about what happens.”
• Before campaigning can begin, Jean must be cleared to run by Haiti’s eight-member provisional electoral council. Among the requirements he must fulfill are proving he has never renounced his Haitian citizenship by holding another — namely, U.S. — passport; and that he has been a resident of Haiti for the last five years — which by most accounts he has not.
• The campaign will argue that Jean’s status as a Haitian ambassador-at-large, a post he was awarded in 2007, exempts him from having not spent more time in the country of late.