6 August, 2010 — AOL News
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Aug. 6) — Around the crumbled National Palace at Champ de Mars Plaza, politics is always a hot topic of conversation.
This week conversations could be overheard about current Haitian President Rene Preval, the Americans, Hugo Chavez and Venezuela, ousted former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and now international rap star Wyclef Jean, the latest candidate for president.
Residents in this massive camp of more than 50,000 are generally discouraged by what is seen as a lack of action from President Preval. But for many, that’s nothing new.
As Jean, 40, announced his candidacy, he entered a fractious, and an often dangerous, political milieu. The past 40 years in Haiti have included dictatorship, military coups and, in recent times, the death of more than 20 percent of civil servants after the catastrophic Jan. 12 earthquake.
On the streets, many people are unaware that elections will take place in November. Others heard the news — they just don’t care. Optimism, all things considered, is still scarce.
Marcel Moullier, 66, groundskeeper at the National Palace
“I’ve been working here since 1964. And I tell you what, maybe the bourgeois need to worry about losing their jobs, but me, I take out the garbage, and there’s garbage every day.
“I’ve heard about Wyclef, but I don’t know him. It doesn’t matter to me who comes here next.
“In all these years, the only president I really liked was Duvalier. And that’s because his wife was really nice to us. She would come out here, take care of the employees. So I guess, you know, I don’t know about Duvalier, but I have to say that if someone does something good like that, you sort of have to mention it.”
Patricia Jean Philippe, 23, and her daughter, Wade
“I’d vote for Wyclef. I like him and I can see that he’s thinking and dreaming for the country. He has a plan for the country. I don’t know what it is … but if he didn’t have a plan, then I don’t think he’d run.”
Ketia Derelicts, 19, pictured in pink
“Vote for what? Preval is a junkie, a thief. We would never vote for him but he’s still our president. The Americans brought us food and he took it. We want Aristide, or maybe Obama.”
Marilaude Saint Louis left, 26, pictured on the left, gesturing
“Wyclef is my people. I am definitely with him. He is thinking for the people. He hasn’t done anything yet, but the way he acts, he doesn’t humiliate the youth. And that’s important.”
Reginald Rice, 31
“Listen, Wyclef is a music dude. Wyclef knows about music. Myself, I’m not going to vote for him. And believe me, I am a big Wyclef fan. You know what? Everyone who gets elected, they do the same thing. They’re lying to the people, taking their money. They say they’re going to do good when they’re really not.
“The only reason poor people want to vote for him is because Wyclef doesn’t have an education either. You go up to the rich spots, Kenscoff, Fermate, Pelerin … you’re not going to find anybody down for that. Rich people travel and have money, they know better.
“If people downtown understood the presidential system, what’s really involved, they wouldn’t vote Wyclef either.”
Madame Pierre, 84, is a neighbor to rapper Fantom and the group Barikad Crew in Bas-Peu-de-Chose, the impoverished neighborhood around Rue Nicolas
“I’ve been their neighbor for years. I just come and go. Mind my own business. But I’ve never seen trouble here.
“I’m too old to vote now, what do I care? But if one of them became president, I think it could be good for the youth. Maybe they’ll get the little ones something to eat.”
“I would like to vote for [Jean] him. But maybe it won’t be possible. When the elections come, there is going to be a lot of violence, a lot of thugs around kidnapping people, stealing things.”
Colin, 36, holding a photo of former President Aristide
“First, [Jean] is a musician. He’s not qualified to be president. Also, he’s American. He’s not Haitian. He doesn’t speak Creole. I mean, he doesn’t even speak the language of the Haitian people.”
Merton Suffrin, 40, also with a photo of Aristide
“We’re not going to put our finger down for anyone anymore. We want Aristide back. I’ll admit — he never gave me a job, but still, he’s my president.”
Vierge Dely, 40
“The candidate who’s going to be good. That’s the one I want. I really liked Aristide, but he left.
“Anyway, lave men siye ate. You wash your hands, then wipe them on the ground.
“Even Aristide never really did anything interesting for the poor people. In the end, I won’t be able to know who is truly good or not; I will just have to take a chance.”
Lamartine Chardavoie, 66
“For you to be president, first, you have to have the people with you. You should have done a lot of things with the people and for the people — first. I can’t tell you anything Wyclef has done.
“But then again, if you know politics well enough to get elected, then maybe you know politics well enough to be president.”
Nehemie Michelle, 22, standing, with her friend, Elie Jacques Naomi, also 22
“I’m sorry but Wyclef is a child. He doesn’t have the capacity to be president. He’s a pothead. All the artists, all these guys he runs with, they sing songs like oh, ‘I feel like taking a bullet.’
“That causes problems. You show up to these concerts, people actually get shot.”
Thomas William, 50, holding a photo here with his young son, in white, who died during the earthquake
“I don’t see myself voting at all. Because every time I vote, nothing happens. The last person I voted for was Aristide.
“I don’t think Wyclef has the votes, but I guess if he won I wouldn’t care. Anyway, it’s always the same. People vote for someone and if he wants, he’ll do something good. But no one ever does.
“I was born under Duvalier, and at least when he was here, some things worked.”
Micheline Christoph, 35, pictured with three of her children, Lovely Camille, 6; Patricia, 5; and Fritznel, 8
“Well, I don’t know anything. I heard about Wyclef but I don’t know him. I guess if they want to do something good, they will.
“This country is broken. I’d like to see someone rebuild it and actually do something that matters.”