Sean Penn, Pras criticize Wyclef Jean‘s presidential run in Haiti
Well, if there’s one thing a president — or a presidential candidate — needs to get used to, it’s criticism. And not just the “your last album kinda sucked” type of criticism. More like criticisms that include the words, “suspicious,” “vulgar,” “non-presence,” “obscene” and “opportunist.”
These are words that Sean Penn and Wyclef Jean’s former bandmate Pras are throwing around in regards to his run for President of Haiti, and he’s only in day one of his campaign.
Yeah, this is gonna get ugly.
Penn has been the most vocal of the challengers, taking to the CNN airwaves yesterday to air his considerable grievances with Jean.
“The last thing in the world that Haiti needs — and I’m not accusing Wyclef Jean of being an opportunist, I don’t know the man,” he said. How’s that for an opening gambit?
Penn also questioned Jean’s motives for running for office, speculating that corporate interests that are “enamored” of the singer have pushed him into campaigning with promises of support — in the form of underpaid yet much-needed jobs in the country — which shields their own opportunism.
“Right now, I worry that this is a campaign that is more about a vision of flying around the world talking to people, it’s certainly not about the youth drafting him,” Penn said. “I would be quite sure that this was an influence of corporations here in the United States and private individuals that may well have capitalized on his will to see himself flying around the world doing that.”
As a result, Penn wants the media to keep an extra close eye on his campaign donors.
“This is somebody who’s going to receive an enormous amount of his support, if he continues this campaign, from the United States. I have to say, I’m very suspicious of it, simply because he, as an ambassador-at-large, has been virtually silent. For those of us in Haiti, he has been a non-presence.”
Penn went on to say that in the last six months he has spent in Haiti, Wyclef has been virtually nonexistent. He mentions that the Clef is an “important voice” for the country and hopes he “doesn’t sacrifice that voice by taking the eye off the very devastating realities of the ground and the very different strategic future it’s got in putting itself back together.”
“I want to see someone who’s really, really willing to sacrifice for their country and not just someone who I personally saw with a vulgar entourage of vehicles that demonstrated a wealth in Haiti that, in context, I felt, a very obscene demonstration.”
Penn also called for a much more thorough investigation into Jean’s finances in the wake of mounting reports earlier this year that he diverted $400,000 of relief money from his Yéle Haiti foundation to his own personal account. Jean denied the accusations in a flood of tears earlier this year. The Smoking Gun reported this week that the IRS filed three tax liens totaling $2.1 million against him for unpaid taxes.
Wyclef’s answer so far? “There is no situation of Wyclef Jean that we will ignore,” the third-person-loving star told CNN. “We respect the IRS very much.
As for Pras, Jean’s former band mate, he was slightly less damning in his dissention from Wyclef’s campaign, but no less a non-supporter. In a simple statement released yesterday, Pras announced that he was supporting Jean’s competition instead.
“I endorse Michel Martell as the next president of Haiti because he is the most competent candidate for the job.”
Oh, well. There’s still a chance he can secure that Lauryn Hill swing vote.