Duvalier: 'Not Important' How History Remembers Me

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Former dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier credits himself with starting Haiti's democratic process with his 1986 flight into exile and did not inform anyone that he would be coming back last month, the returned leader told Univison in an interview scheduled to be aired Tuesday night.

The 59-year-old former "president for life" faces a judge's investigation into allegations of corruption and human rights abuses during his 15-year dictatorship. In his first international interview since his shock return from France, Duvalier defended his rule and said it is up to Haiti's justice system to answer the allegations against him.

"I was the one who started a democratic process. When they talk to me about tyranny it makes me laugh, it gives me the impression that people are suffering from amnesia," Duvalier said. "They have forgotten the condition in which I left Haiti. I left voluntarily ... to avoid a major disaster and facilitate a peaceful exit from the crisis."

Asked how he hopes history will remember him, he says: "I think that is not important."

Duvalier was interviewed in French by Alicia Ortega, a journalist from the neighboring Dominican Republic with the channel Noticias SIN. An advance transcript translated into Spanish was made available to The Associated Press.

The former exile is often evasive in the interview, frequently telling Ortega to go on to the next question or that he would like her next query to be the last.

He talked around several of the most pressing matters. He said he traveled to Haiti on a renewed diplomatic passport, but declined to explain who gave it to him or when.

That's a thorny question in Haiti as allies of one of Duvalier's chief political nemeses, ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, are trying to get their leader a diplomatic passport to return from exile and alleging that Duvalier got special treatment. Haitian government ministers agreed last week that Aristide would be eligible for a passport, but said Monday that he has not applied for one.

Duvalier also told Ortega that he had informed no one of his return but assumed that "information services" - in France, it is implied by the question - would have been aware that he was on his way back. The first reports broke while he was aboard an Air France jet over the Atlantic citing anonymous French officials.

He was also circumspect about his own political aspirations. Duvalier returned in the midst of a political crisis in which President Rene Preval has no clear successor days before the constitution says his term should expire.

"The only motive for my return ... was to participate in the commemoration (of the January 2010 earthquake), that is all. And help the Haitian people face this situation," he said. He also that despite his slurred speech and shuffling gait, he is in good health.

Amnesty International says that during Duvalier's reign, inherited from his brutal father, Haiti suffered from systematic torture, extrajudicial executions and the disappearances of hundreds of people. His Tonton Macoute militia carried out widespread crimes and abuses and repressed pro-democracy and human rights activists.

The interview is to air on a difficult day for the ex-leader. Earlier Tuesday, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay offered to assist in his prosecution, saying the human rights violations Duvalier allegedly committed have no statute of limitations and Haiti is obligated to prosecute.

Hours before, a new law went into effect in Switzerland allowing the government to claim dictators' funds deposited in their banks and believed to be of criminal origin.

Duvalier allegedly has up to $7.3 million deposited there. The statute is dubbed the "Duvalier law."


Associated Press writer Frank Jordans in Geneva contributed to this story