Thursday, 19 August 2010

Wyclef Jean says threats will not deter candidacy

Hip hop star and presidential candidate, Wyclef Jean, says recent spate of threats will not deter his candidacy for president.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI (AUGUST 18, 2010) REUTERS - Hip-hop star Wyclef Jean said on Wednesday (August 18) he had received death threats but they would not deter him from running for president of his native Haiti.
Singer-songwriter Jean, 40, said he had received anonymous phone calls threatening that he would be killed unless he left Haiti. He was in hiding and has not appeared in public for two days, but sounded defiant.

He told Reuters he wouldn't give up, but said he had taken precautions.

"And just for our safety, we basically came to an area which we feel is secure, and that's my town. So I basically am in my town, I'm in Lassere, we're in an area where we're comfortable. The area where we was at before, we was not comfortable, so where we at right now, we definitely feel more comfortable. We know that the situation that we have embarked in, you know, death threats comes with the territory," he said.

Haiti's provisional electoral council had been due to finalize on Tuesday (August 17) the list of candidates who met the legal requirements to stand in the Nov. 28 election that will choose a successor to President Rene Preval.

The announcement was delayed until Friday to allow more time to decide on legal questions about several of the 34 contenders, among them Jean.

He said he and his legal team were sure they had met all the requirements.

"So by law and within the Haitian constitution, we have given the CEP everything. So this delay of announcing the candidacy is not on our part because we have given everything possible," he said.

He is widely popular in his impoverished Caribbean homeland, which is struggling to recover from a devastating Jan. 12 earthquake that killed up to 300,000 people and wrecked

much of the coastal capital Port-au-Prince.

Haiti's electoral law requires candidates to have five consecutive years of residency in Haiti, among other requirements, such as tax compliance.

Jean left his homeland at age 9 to go to the United States, where he launched and developed his international musical career. His lawyers have said he is eligible to run and has maintained residency for more than five years in Haiti.

Legal challenges also have been raised against several other candidates, including Jacques Edouard Alexis, a former two-time prime minister, and Leslie Voltaire, a U.S.-educated urban planner and former minister who has been heavily involved in Haiti's post-quake reconstruction.

Jean has rebuffed criticisms that he lacks the experience and qualifications to be president, arguing that Haiti needs an international figure who can attract aid and allies.

He told Reuters that if his candidacy is not approved, he will continue his work in Haiti.

"If after Friday we're not approved, I will continue doing what I've been doing in Haiti, coming back and forth. But we will be respected as a political force. The important thing is that I hope we can be part of the big plan that is for Haiti. And the programs of helping people write and read, the voice of the youth could still implement, for the farmers, we put them in a better situation, the idea of investment coming into the country, starting with the diaspora, working towards helping bring the first resort to Haiti, that is something that I'm very excited on, you know, better relationships with the DR. I'm still going to be involved," he said.

What Jean may lack in political experience he may make up for in popularity. He is admired by many Haitians, especially the young, who see him as a celebrity who never forgot his roots. Several Haitian youth organizations and Creole music groups are supporting his campaign as a candidate for the Viv Ansan-m party.

The three-time Grammy award-winner has said he will put his musical career on hold if his candidacy is approved.

Preval, who has been widely criticized at home over his handling of the response to the earthquake disaster, cannot run for re-election after serving two terms.