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Black Sky Thinking

Why President Wyclef Jean Is The Last Thing Haiti Needs
Lewis G. Parker , August 23rd, 2010 11:16

Wyclef Jean's bid to be President of Haiti looks to have fallen at the first hurdle. This is no bad thing for the people of the Island, argues Lewis G Parker

Finally, the people still suffering in the tarp cities of Haiti have a minor cause for celebration. The man whose murky finances include invoicing his own charity for a live performance isn't eligible to run for president. "I am being drafted to serve my country," said Wyclef Jean, 40, while his hopes were still high in the friendly sky. So while the Haitian electoral commission has ruled that the non-domicile, multi-millionaire rapper and businessman's candidacy isn't valid, it's a good time to see who exactly drafted Wyclef to serve his country, and to whom he would have served it up.

It's likely that many Haitians may well have supported the charismatic Wyclef, had he got on the ballot – this is a young country where he's a superstar, and he'd surely have been able to outspend any of the other candidates 10:1 during the campaign. That's even without the fact that the most popular party, the twice-exiled former president Jean-Bertrand Aristede's Fanmi Lavalas, has been barred from running candidates. And he may well have proved to be a smooth operator politically, despite never having held public office, with his uncle, the U.N. ambassador Raymond Joseph, acting as choreographer. And as well as his well-honed skills at working a crowd while perched on top of his S.U.V., Wyclef the pop star could have been a unifying candidate in this divided country. But if Wyclef's lack of principle or political experience show us anything, it's that he might well have ended up as a candidate with broad appeal who would ultimately have ended up serving the interests of big businesses, a few of which he personally owns, and not the Haitian people.

Wyclef Jean is tight as arseholes with guys who know one end of a sawn-off shotgun from the other. In the documentary he produced, Ghosts of Cite Soleil, we see him enthralled by the musical efforts of then-president Aristede's alleged unofficial muscle men in the slums, the chimeres. But then he stated in an M.T.V. interview that he supported the coup to overthrow the democratically elected Aristede. Is this a unifying candidate who could bring all sides to the table, or a guy who doesn't know his arse from his elbow politically? As his cousin and former Fugees bandmate Pras says, he hasn't lived in Haiti for 31 years, so he probably doesn't really know what's in the people's interests.

So while Wyclef claims to speak for the Haitian people in general terms, a key interviewee in Ghosts of Cite Soleil is Andre Apaid, an American sweatshop owner who's the largest employer on the Island. This bandit was one of the top dogs who removed Aristede from power the first time around in 1991, largely in opposition to the president's plan to double the minimum wage. He and his capitalist chums' aim is said to be the destruction of the democratic system in Haiti, which would allow them to carry on exploiting its people by using it as a cheap-labour haven. Nowhere in Ghosts is this ever brought up, and there's no evidence of Wyclef ever directly condemning Apaid or other foreign companies who pay pitiful wages.

So there's a fair chance that, due to either a simplistic understanding of Haiti's politics, or more sinister motives, President Wyclef would have served up the asses of Haiti's people to the wishes of the neoliberal cowboys who have already screwed them over royally, i.e. the unlikely partners in the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Here's how they did their screwing: The not-so-lonesome Cowboy Bill used his unwanted oar to paddle the asses of the Haitian people further into poverty the first time around by allowing Aristede to return to power, under the condition that he put his nation's economy to the sword by removing trade barriers to open up the market to U.S. importers. Then you don't have to Google far to find connections between the 2004 coup to remove Aristede and the CIA. How does this relate to the former Fugee? As well as taking sides with Bush and Apaid in 2004, as Charlie Hinton, of the Haiti Action Committee says: "Jean and his uncle, the Haitian ambassador to the U.S., are both cosy 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 labour for U.S. factories."

Wyclef's intentions to run for president of Haiti may well have been an admirable stepping-up to the plate in his brothers' time of need, or they may not. We'll never know. But if he really does care about the Haitian people, as he constantly claims, he should begin by firstly condemning gang violence more openly. Then he should make sure the Haitian people get the right kind of aid when they need it—so less invoices for ‘charity' performances, please—and then use his influence to start campaigning against the sweatshop owners and multinationals who want to carry on exploiting Haiti for their own gain. Then he could do with moving back to Haiti for a few years. And then, maybe, once he's got his shit together, run for president.