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Must learnedly read, too; in part, of intellectual rigor
|Posted Monday, September 24, 2007|
|Exiled dictator Duvalier apologizes for 'wrongs'|
|By Stevenson Jacobs, Associated Press Writer|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Exiled dictator Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier apologized for "wrongs" committed under his rule and urged supporters to rally around his fringe political party during a rare address delivered on Haitian radio over the weekend.
The comments marked Duvalier's first public address in years and come amid a quiet campaign by his supporters to see their leader returned from exile in France.
In a speech recorded from Paris, Duvalier said history will be the judge of his 15-year dictatorship, which is widely blamed for killing and torturing opponents and pilfering the national treasury.
"If, during my presidential mandate, the government caused any physical, moral, or economic wrongs to others, I solemnly take the historical responsibility ... to request forgiveness from the people and ask for the impartial judgment of history," Duvalier said.
Duvalier's government came to an abrupt end on Feb. 7, 1986 when he fled the country during a popular uprising, and he's been notably quiet during his years in exile.
Bobby Duval, a former soccer star who was starved and tortured while locked up for 17 months under the Duvalier government for speaking out against human rights abuses, said it was the first time he could recall the former dictator apologizing for his regime's atrocities, but said it did not go far enough.
"He killed thousands of people, stole money and destroyed the psyche and heart of a people. This guy should be in jail and I'm just waiting for him to come back so that can happen," said Duval, who now runs a sports outreach program. "I don't accept his apology."
In the radio address, broadcast across the country on Saturday and Sunday, Duvalier described himself as "broken by 20 years of exile" but "reinvigorated" by what he claimed was growing support among younger Haitians for his small National Unity Party.
"The watchword is already launched, the instruction is given. Militants and militant sympathizers of the National Unity Party be ready. We live ... in waiting of the revival," Duvalier said.
He did not say if he if would seek to return to his homeland.
In recent months, a handful of loyalists have been campaigning to bring Duvalier home from exile, launching a foundation to improve the dictatorship's image and reviving his political party in the hope that he could one day return to power democratically.
Duvalier's party has no seats in parliament, and political observers say it has little chance of becoming a force in Haiti.
The address - delivered in French, not the Haitian Creole of the country's poor masses - was timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the election of his father and predecessor, Francois (Papa Doc) Duvalier. Named president for life at 19 following the death of his father in 1971, Duvalier now lives in France and reportedly supports himself with handouts from friends.
Duvalier, 56, lamented the collapse of the Haitian economy since his rule and the social divisions that continue to polarize the Caribbean country, which is still struggling to recover from a 2004 revolt that toppled former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Aristide, who fled the country and now lives in South Africa, said in February he would return to Haiti "once the conditions are right" but does not plan to go back into government.
Haiti's constitution outlaws the forced exile of any Haitian citizen, although current President Rene Preval has not said whether he would welcome home either Duvalier or Aristide.
Preval was preparing to travel to New York to attend the UN General Assembly, and his office did not immediately respond to Duvalier's remarks.
RELATED TEXT: Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier and the continuing innumerable Haitian tragedies
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