PORT-AU-PRINCE (AP) — Haitian President Michel Martelly has backed off a suggestion from an interview a day earlier that he might be open to a pardon for former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier. He said Friday he meant only that he wanted an end to the internal conflict that has long afflicted his country.
Martelly, speaking in a radio interview in Dublin, Ireland said that “I never proposed to pardon” for the dictator known as “Baby Doc” who is under a judicial investigation for crimes committed during his brutal 15-year rule in the 1970s and 1980s. A judge is expected to rule soon on whether Duvalier will face trial on corruption and human rights charges.
A day earlier, The Associated Press interviewed Martelly on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and asked about the former dictator and the pending decision. The president suggested he had little appetite for a trial, saying reconciliation for his nation was more important than punishing Duvalier.
“My way of thinking is to create a situation where we rally everyone together and create peace and pardon people, to not forget about the past — because we need to learn from it —but to mainly think about the future,” he said.
Martelly added that any decision on a possible pardon would come only with “a consensus among all leaders, all political parties.”
In the Friday interview with Ireland’s Newstalk FM, Martelly was asked by the host why he would pardon Duvalier. The president said he was misunderstood by the AP.
“When I mentioned reconciliation it has nothing to do with Duvalier,” he said. “Duvalier is a case where only the justice [system] can decide on it.”
In other news from Haiti, the government has kicked off a program that it hopes will provide meals to 2.2 million school children across the country.
The effort is called “Aba Grangou,” Haitian Creole for “Down With Hunger,” and will enlist 10,000 workers to fan out across the nation. Half of the targeted children will be under age 5.
Hunger and malnutrition have been perennial problems in Haiti.
The country’s farms have been devastated by the effects of cheap food imports and deforestation.
More than half of Haiti’s 10 million people get by on less than $2 a day and they are vulnerable to fluctuating food prices on the global market.
First Lady Sophia Martelly announced the food program Jan. 24.
Photo: Michel Martelly