More problems surface for Wyclef. Last week there was the revelation that he owed the IRS $2.1 million in back taxes. He better be careful, he could be sharing a cell with The Blade!
No question that Wyclef knows how to play the media… The question is does he have the skills necessary to manage a country through what will be the most ambitious recovery effort in history?
More importantly, is Wyclef really a departure from the sort of corrupt politician and government which has crippled the country and every single effort to move forward?
It’s really beginning to look like he doesn’t… and isn’t.
Hope I’m wrong.
A few months before Wyclef Jean, the hip-hop star, declared his candidacy for president of Haiti, the representative of a struggling tent camp made a pilgrimage to the new headquarters of Mr. Jean’s charity. He arrived, hat in hand, at the eight-acre compound the charity leased after a fund-raising bonanza in response to the Jan. 12 earthquake.
But the representative, Carel Calixte of the Christ Roi camp, could not get past the gate of the $15,000-a-month property, where grapefruit and palm trees surround an unfilled swimming pool and two model homes for the homeless sit empty. So, accepting a vague promise of assistance, he left.
No help ever arrived, Mr. Calixte and other leaders at Christ Roi said, even though the charity, Yéle Haiti, lists their camp among several dozen it supports. Yéle’s president, Hugh Locke, provided dates of several water deliveries to Christ Roi. But camp leaders insist that their water has been supplied not by Yéle but by two other nonprofit groups.
At least four more camps that Yéle claims to support also maintain that they have received nothing from Yéle — “Not even a cookie!” Ricardo Dorvelus, a camp leader, said — and still others characterize Yéle’s assistance as short-lived or token, like the television donated to one camp that broke halfway through the World Cup.
Mr. Jean, who is considered a potential front-runner in the campaign, said his charity was saving lives, especially in “the roughest communities.” He dismissed the accounts from camp leaders as “hearsay” that reflected “the overall fear and anger in these camps after nearly seven months of hardship and fear.”
Mr. Jean also expressed displeasure that his presidential bid has renewed scrutiny of his charity and its history of poor financial management “at a time when I am trying to make a genuine difference.”
How Mr. Jean, a celebrity with no experience in politics, has guided Yéle Haiti offers one barometer of his ability to lead. The earthquake raised the musician’s profile and brought his small nonprofit group more than $10.5 million through July 31, of which just under a third has been spent, according to the charity.
In the past, Mr. Jean blurred boundaries between his personal, business and philanthropic enterprises. His charity paid his production company for benefit concerts featuring Mr. Jean, and paid his Haitian television station for promotions that also featured him. After the earthquake, the television station, its building badly damaged, broadcast rent-free from Yéle’s new estate.
Derek Q. Johnson, who became Yéle’s chief executive this month after Mr. Jean stepped down to run for president, said, “On the whole, it’s clear that missteps have been made, both in execution and in judgment, some of which apparently are still unfolding.”
On Monday, Euro RSCG Worldwide PR announced that it had resigned from all public relations work for Yéle and Mr. Jean’s campaign. The firm offered no explanation.
To his many ardent supporters here, Mr. Jean’s championing of the Haitian cause is more important than any missteps at Yéle — and Mr. Jean has acknowledged making mistakes.
Jocelyn Augustin, 38, a pregnant mother of three who lives in a miserable camp beside a municipal dump, said she idolized Mr. Jean even before his charity gave the camp’s residents tents branded with the Yéle logo. “After God is Wyclef,” she said.
To Mr. Jean’s skeptics, indications that he has poorly handled money at Yéle and in his personal life — with $2.1 million in tax liens against his house in Saddle River, N.J., which Mr. Jean says he is addressing, and an unfinished Miami mansion lost to foreclosure — raise concerns about a presidential candidate for a shattered country pledged billions in reconstruction aid.
After the earthquake, it was widely reported that Yéle’s 2006 tax filing revealed $350,000 in questionable payments to two companies that Mr. Jean and his cousin control, including $250,000 to a Haitian television station they had just acquired.