PORT-AU-PRINCE - "I did inhale, this time," joked Former U.S. President Bill Clinton afterward, grinning at Wyclef Jean, his intermittent travel companion to the Caribbean island country. "Aww, heck," he drawled, "maybe the other times, too!"
Clinton became the United Nations' first official envoy to the troubled nation of 10 million beginning this Tuesday. Highly popular in Haiti, Clinton will bring "global star power" to a country plagued by poverty, national disasters and continuing government strife. Already struggling with political deadlock and famine at the time, Haiti was battered by four tropical storms last fall that killed 800, doing an additional $1 billion in damage, and the country is now even farther from recovery.
As Envoy, Clinton will focus primarily on the economic and social development of Haiti, which insiders say may center around a campaign to decriminalize marijuana in the impoverished country. He believes marketing Haiti as a sort of "Amsterdam of the Caribbean" would open up the country to unprecedented economic expansion based largely on tourism. He noted that wealthy investors, hoping to eventually siphon as many tourist dollars as possible away from Haiti, will in the meantime pump billions into the local economy, building hotels, restaurants and resorts. The resulting boom in construction and service industry sectors would create jobs desperately needed by the impoverished residents of Haiti, building a foundation for a stable economy in the future.
Though Clinton is still immensely popular in Haiti, nearly 40 percent of its people are under 15, so one would expect many never to have heard of him. Nevertheless, "Wild Bill" Clinton was greeted like a rock star upon arriving in Haiti to assume his role as Special Envoy to the U.N. Screaming hordes of fans climbed over each other to greet the former U.S. President, virtually ignoring Wyclef Jean, who stood leaning against a wall several yards away, smoking a blunt and shaking his head in disbelief.
"Slick Willie" and 'Clef were later observed walking the streets of Port-au-Prince together, sharing more Haitian herbs as they discussed plans to revive Haiti's battered economy. Plans include a benefit concert tour by Wyclef as well as an "e-cleftic" remake of Dolly Parton's hit single "9 to 5," with a portion of each iTones purchase being directly "e-posited" into the Haitian Treasury in what Wyclef refers to as the "e-positive" movement.
Rumors indicate that the two also may have visited a secret hash bar. There, they allegedly consumed copious quantities of bananas and used the single dollar bill Clinton received for his first year's service as Envoy, rolling it into a tube to snort some killer blow, part of a shipment later to be distributed in the United States that had just arrived from the Columbian coast after an 8-hour trip in a speedboat.
At present, illegal drug traffic is one of cash-strapped Haiti's only reliable sources of revenue but, as Clinton demonstrated during his U.S. Presidency, when people have work and money, crime goes down. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said in Geneva he hopes pragmatic Clinton can help alleviate Haiti's problems, improving conditions in a country where 80% of people live on less than $2 a day. However, many Haitians believe bringing in someone from the outside is not the answer.
"Haiti needs its own president who can solve our problems, so we can break the cycle of dependence on foreign aid," said one man as he roamed the streets of Port-au-Prince trying to sell some tattered bits of string, a rusty, disposable single-blade razor with a broken handle, and a lint-encrusted, half-eaten candy cane.