Musician and activist Wyclef Jean, who rose to prominence with the hip-hop group The Fugees, ended weeks of speculation this past week when he announced that he is running for the presidency of Haiti. The 37-year-old Jean was born in Haiti but emigrated to the United States at the age of 9 and has spent most of his life in America.
Jean’s presidential bid obviously comes at a critical time in the troubled island nation’s history – the devastating earthquake which rocked Haiti in January was only the latest in a long list of difficulties the country has faced. Jean has international name recognition and charisma, and (arguably) a sincere desire to better the lives of his countrymen. But he also comes with some baggage. It’s certainly questionable whether he has the experience and knowledge to lead a country whose problems are as numerous and complex as Haiti’s are. There are those who decry professional politicians and favor the idea of the “something new” that Jean feels his candidacy represents. I, myself, have never been a big fan of political dilettantes, the Schwarzeneggers and Venturas of the world who think they can just step in and figure it out. I no more like the idea of a political tyro taking over responsibility for a state (or a country) than I would would like a first year med student performing brain surgery on me.
There are also more specific and troubling questions about some of Jean’s actions – his charity Yéle Haiti has been hit with some pretty serious charges of irregular and possibly unscrupulous practices; it was recently dissolved by the Florida Division of Corporations.
It may be that if Jean were to win the presidency, he would bring some positive changes to Haiti. It’s just distressing that the best many can say about him at this point is that “he’s got to be better than Baby Doc“, or his father, or any of the other corrupt politicians who have terrorized and bled the country dry for decade after decade. Haiti deserves better. The may not get it, but they do deserve better.