Sunday, August 8, 2010

Thoughts on Wyclef Jean's Haitian Presidential Bid

Could Sean Penn have a point?

After musician Wyclef Jean announced his intention to run for the presidency of Haiti, Penn took Jean to task for his absence from the island nation in the months of following the earthquake which is believed to have killed nearly a quarter of a million people. Penn told Larry King earlier this week he found Jean's bid for elected office in Haiti to be "suspicious" and added Jean has been "a non-presence" on the island.

Jean's charity, Yele Haiti, came under criticism in the aftermath of the earthquake when it was revealed it did not file tax returns for the years 2005-2007 until August 2009.

If Jean can't manage his own charity then how can he be expected to run a country? Especially one so deeply mired in poverty and violence.

But let's assume for the time being that Jean is honest, is elected fairly and does not misuse his power. While the presence of Jean might shine a brighter light on Haiti that light could dim if he is overwhelmed by the enormous task that would be before him.

Since Baby Doc Duvalier was deposed nearly a quarter century ago, power has changed hand 16 times. In order to survive, Jean might feel compelled to employ the same tactics that served his predecessors so well. Even if Jean doesn't approve of state sponsored violence it won't necessarily stop his supporters from behaving violently towards his political adversaries.

In fairness to Jean, he is aware of what he is up against. He estimates that it will take between 25 to 30 years to rebuild Haiti. Even so that is likely an optimistic prognosis.

The election is scheduled to take place on November 28th.

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