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PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - In a radio ad sponsored by the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti, Grammy Award-winning musician Wyclef Jean is asking his fellow citizens to give up crime and work to improve the country.
"If you love Wyclef, that means you love Haiti. So you should not be raping women, kidnapping people and children, because there can be no excuse for doing so," Jean said in Creole in a short ad run several times a day by local stations in Haiti.
"I reject these evil practices," said the 35-year-old Jean, who also urged Haitian men to respect and protect women's rights.
Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas has battled decades of political upheaval, dictatorship, military rule and violence.
Haitian police and U.N. authorities have noted a rise in crime over the past several weeks and are trying to counter a wave of kidnappings and crimes perpetrated by gangs in the capital and some provincial areas.
Official figures show 36 people were kidnapped for ransom in Port-au-Prince during March, and about 30 in February. The number had dropped to fewer than 20 a month.
Fred Blaise, a spokesman for the U.N. police, said Jean's popularity among Haitians from across the social spectrum may positively influence youngsters involved in crime, and could motivate others to stay out of trouble.
"All kinds of Haitians, the good guys as well as the bad guys, have a lot of appreciation for Wyclef for what he represents as a Haitian," Blaise told Reuters on Sunday.
"So they would be more likely to be receptive to Wyclef's message because they are all proud of him," he said.
Jean, who first gained fame as a member of the Grammy-winning hip-hop trio The Fugees, enjoys enormous respect in Haiti. Last year, he was appointed by Haitian President Rene Preval to serve as a roving ambassador to improve the nation's image abroad.