Ex-Haitian dictator goes on TV to 'explain myself'
Michele Gillen, CBS/WFOR-4
PARIS - Jean-Claude ''Baby Doc'' Duvalier, the former dictator of Haiti who has lived in exile in France since 1986, has granted his first television interview to an American journalist in 15 years.
The interview, with WFOR-CBS4 investigative reporter Michele Gillen, will be aired tonight on CBS 4 at 6 and 11 p.m.
The last time Duvalier sat before an American camera was with Barbara Walters.
Considered by many Haitians to have run a regime marked by brutality, financial fraud and political persecution, Duvalier told Gillen Sunday that he is ``intent to return to his country.''
There were no restrictions on what Gillen could ask.
Questioned about the allegations of abuses under his government and that of his father, Francois Duvalier, he responded, ``I never said that there weren't any abuses.''
During the 2 ½-hour interview in a Paris hotel, Duvalier said he now hears the cries of his people, who ``are suffering a lot. It is not bearable. It is revolting.''
The following are excerpts from the interview:
Gillen: It has been 15 years since you agreed to an interview with an American television journalist. Why now?
Duvalier: Because it is now time for me to explain myself.
Q: What is the greatest risk today to the Haitian people?
A: The greatest risk is that this chaos transforms into utter and uncontrollable violence.
Q: Do you feel that it is a crisis at this point?
A: Absolutely, absolutely.
Q: What do you think he [President Jean Bertrand Aristide] should do?
A: He does not rule Haiti anymore. He does not have the possibility of ruling Haiti anymore. He has been rejected by the vast majority of the population. He should, according to me, retire.
It is impossible to deceive people for too long. Aristide reveals himself as the greatest fraudulent user of power of all time.
How is it possible to explain that 16 years after my departure the children's mortality has been increasing? Sixty percent of the population is not in a position to get enough food. And life expectancy is diminishing. How is it possible to explain that 16 years afterward industrialists have to close their doors and there are no tourists anymore?
People are suffering a lot. It is not bearable. It is revolting. I know of parents who can't have their children go to school anymore. Some families eat every other day.
Q: Do you feel the issues of starvation and real life and death are greater now than they were 15 or 20 years ago?
A: There is no possible comparison. The country has gone backward by 50 years. All the infrastructure has been destroyed. What is left is in a miserable state. Part of the capital does not have electricity.
Q: Do you want to return to Haiti?
A: It is my firm intention as soon as conditions allow.
Q: Why do you want to go back and what do you want to do?
A: In spite of all these years that have elapsed since I was
in Haiti, I am still very touched by that country. I suffer from being
away as well as from seeing the misery
under which the Haitian population has to live. That is why it is my duty to go back to the country and participate in the rebuilding of my country.
Q: Is there anything legal stopping you from going back to Haiti?
A: There is absolutely no legal obstacle to my return to Haiti.
Q: So why have you not gone back?
A: I've got my reasons.
Q: Tell me.
A: I will not tell the media.
Q: Do you live with the fear of being held criminally accountable for allegations of misappropriation of dollars from Haiti?
A: If there were any money misappropriated, I would like to see the evidence.
Q: Under what circumstances did you step down? In the final hour, who came to you and said you must go?
A: Nobody came to me to say that I had to leave. I thought it
was best for me to leave because I wanted to avoid blood flooding the streets
in Port-au-Prince and
elsewhere. I had the means to stay in power, but I thought it was better for me to leave.
Q: It has been reported that the American government essentially forced your hand and said you had to leave.
A: It's absolutely false.
Q: Did you ever think it would be this many years that you would be away?
A: Honestly, no.
Q: The U.S. policy that doesn't consider Haitian refugees [migrants] as political refugees . . . do you agree with that?
A: There is chaos in Haiti. There are no available means to govern the country . . . Students were injured by bullets. Journalists were persecuted; two of them died. So that leads me to think that faced with such a situation, the Bush administration should grant the status of political refugee.
Q: It will be difficult . . . for some people to accept your
raising concerns over abuses today and not taking any responsibility for
abuses under you
and your father's regime.
A: I never said that there weren't any abuses.