PORT-AU-PRINCE - Haitian singer Wyclef Jean is considering a bid for the presidency of his earthquake-shattered homeland, where he is a popular figure, but he has not yet decided whether to run in November's election.
In a statement sent to the media on Tuesday, the family of the former Fugees star, who has served as ambassador-at-large under the current Haitian government, confirmed for the first time that he was considering putting his hip-hop infused music career on the back burner to run for Haiti's top job.
"Wyclef's commitment to his homeland and its youth is boundless, and he will remain its greatest supporter regardless of whether he is part of the government moving forward," the statement said.
"At this time, Wyclef Jean has not announced his intent to run for Haitian president. If and when a decision is made, media will be alerted immediately," it said without elaborating.
Jean was born in Haiti but raised in New York. He is wildly popular in Haiti, where half of the population is under age 21. Many Haitians see him as a figure of hope and inspiration for a country with a turbulent history.
Candidates in the Caribbean nation's November 28 presidential and legislative elections have until August 7 to register.
Speculation about the singer hopping into the ring of presidential contenders has grown since Haiti's devastating January 12 quake, which killed as many as 300,000 people and has left some 1.5 million survivors still living under tarpaulins and in temporary tent cities.
President faces criticism
Haiti's outgoing government of President Rene Preval, who cannot seek re-election, has faced widespread criticism for being slow to aid victims of the devastating quake and in launching the huge task of rebuilding the country.
The country has been awash for years with rumors that Jean might consider running for president of the poorest country in the Americas.
Haiti won independence from France in 1804 after a slave revolt. The reputation of traditional politicians has become tarnished by decades of corruption, violence, intrigue and alliances with past military dictatorships.
"I would vote for him because I am fed up with the traditional politicians. I think he will win if he runs," said Port-au-Prince resident Sophia Seraphin, 26.
"I think he loves Haiti and he would do anything to help this country," she added.
But others worried whether he had the experience to lead the country, which has suffered successive natural disasters.
"Wyclef is a great artist and Haiti's best spokesperson. ... I am proud of his work as an artist and as a humanitarian, but I don't think he has the qualifications to lead Haiti. So I would not vote for him. I would vote for someone more politically mature," said Jeanvil Bazile, 35.
The singer and producer, best known recently for a string of collaborations with Colombian pop star Shakira, has long been active in raising money for his homeland through his Yele Haiti Foundation.
(Reporting by Joseph Guyler Delva; Writing by Tom Brown; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Will Dunham)