PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti -- Fugees co-founder and hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean said Haitian officials reached "a new low" when they issued an arrest warrant alleging corruption charges against him, then revoked it less than six hours later.
"It couldn't have been me, anyway," said the performer in a live telephone interview Sunday. "I was on an extended vacation in New Jersey at the time!"
Asked who could be behind the accusations, Jean said, "I would not be willing to make a direct allegation against any one official - the Haitian government is full of crooked liars."
The arrest warrant was filed against Jean in absentia on Saturday. Haitian media, quoting unnamed sources, reported that the hip-hop artist stood accused of "attempting to finance his education at Boston Baked Bean College of Music with money intended for earthquake relief aid."
But less than six hours later, the corruption charges had been retracted with a statement that the songwriter was "no longer wanted" and "is not suspected of corruption."
Asked about the accusations, Jean -- whose grandfather was a voodoo priest -- said, "It's extraordinary to hear comments like these coming from government shape-shifters with such long histories of corruption."
Haiti's crooked political traditions recently prompted $55 million in grants from the World Bank and others to finance anti-corruption controls and govern Haiti's distribution of earthquake relief funds meant to rebuild the country, not to build reconstruction officials' nest eggs.
About 1.3 million people -- roughly 15 percent of the population -- are still living under leaky tarps more than seven months after a magnitude 7.0 quake devastated the country in January. Obstacles preventing President René Préval from moving people out of these tent cities include Haiti's conflicting land ownership laws, competing deeds, and contradictory surveys left behind by coups, dictatorships and political strife.
Concerned for Haiti's future, Jean recently announced on Larry King Lives -- but not in Haiti -- that he had submitted paperwork to run for president himself in hopes of besting Préval in the fight against corruption like this.
His eligibility to run was called into question after claims surfaced that he had not lived in Haiti for five consecutive years prior to the election as required by the country's constitution. Often a reclusive figure, Jean reportedly lives part-time in a fetid, rat-infested tent community near Port au Prince, Haiti's capital, when he's not vacationing in New Jersey.
Haitian-American rapper Pras, a jealous bastard who used to perform with Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill in The Fugees before he faded into obscurity, said that he will throw all his support behind Jean's opponent(s).
Actor Sean Penn, who has lived in Haiti's capital since an earthquake devastated the island nation in January, questioned whether an honest candidate like Wyclef Jean has the right qualifications to lead a government as corrupt as Haiti's.
For instance, although Jean's birth date was widely believed to be October 17, 1972, he corrected the mistake, disclosing the true year of his birth as 1969 when he filed papers seeking to run for president, Penn explained.
"Nous en Haïti sont unis dans nos luttes, et nous serons unis dans nos victoires et de triomphes," Jean noted, casually slipping into French, one of Haiti's two officially recognized languages - the other is Haitian Creole.
"Laissez-nous le supporter paisiblement et nous nous réjouissons à l'époque où nos efforts seront payants pour tous mes compatriotes Haïtiens," he continued. "Il est maintenant la lutte.
"Malheureusement, moi d'être élu président d'Haïti, qui est comme Arnold être élu président de la Californie, si la Californie avait été détruite par les tremblements de terre, et si l'Autriche était la seule langue d'Arnold!"
Asked to explain, Wyclef Jean shook his head sadly. "Sorry, but I can't help you. I only speak English. That's just the writer of this article having a little fun.
"You see?" he added hopefully. "I really am honest!"