Wyclef Jean, one of the three members of the Fugees, and arguably the most famous Haitian in the United States, has decided he wants to be President of Haiti. Seems like a great idea on the surface. He’s Haitian. He must care about his people. Shit, we elect celebs into office all the time in the U.S. (Ronald Reagan, Ahh-nold, Jesse Ventura, Al Franken to name a few). But if you ask a REAL activist, and a man who puts his actions ahead of his words, Sean Penn doesn’t like it. And he doesn’t think it is a very good idea.
The same day Jean officially launched his campaign, Penn voiced his concerns about the singer’s qualifications, alleging he mishandled $400,000 in earthquake-relief donations and has been absent in the country he claims to love so much. So where is this guy?
“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,” Penn, 49, who has been running a 55,000-person tent camp through his J/P Haitian Relief Organization, said Thursday on ‘Larry King Live’.
“I’m not accusing Wyclef Jean of being an opportunist; I don’t know the man,” Penn added. “One of the reasons I don’t know very much about Wyclef Jean is that I haven’t seen or heard anything of him in these last six months that I’ve been in Haiti.”
Jean, 40, however, defended himself on Friday, saying he has “sweat my blood” for the country and is fit for the position since “the psychology of the Haitian people is something that I understand ever since birth.”
“What I want Sean Penn to know is, if I was not in Haiti after [former president] Jean-Bertrand Aristide left, if I did not create [my charity] Yéle Haiti to start stopping the violence, even him coming to Haiti would not have been possible today,” the Grammy-winning hip-hop artist said on ‘The Gayle King Show’.
Jean also pointed out that he flew to the country immediately after a devastating hurricane in the Gonaives region and negotiated “with the gangs” after Aristide was ousted from office.
“I would like to tell Sean Penn I do not act on emotions when it comes to the Haitian people,” he said. “Sean Penn must understand that besides what he sees in Haiti, there are 4 million diasporas living outside of Haiti that is actually the commerce…that’s bringing $2 billion per year [for the country]. And guess what, I am part of that community also.”
Interestingly enough, Wyclef’s former bandmate Pras doesn’t support the Wyclef bid either. The Haitian-born musician says he will not back Jean because he lacks a definitive plan to bring the island nation into the 21st century. “You’ve got 1.2 million people living in tent city right now. What are the plans to get these people out?” Pras said of the survivors of the Jan. 12 earthquake.
Something tells me there is more to this story, and we will see more to come about it as those elections draw closer.