PORT-AU-PRINCE (CBS4) – Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier said Friday it was the devastating earthquake that brought him back to Haiti earlier this week.

Duvalier says he wants to help with the reconstruction from a quake that destroyed much of the capital.

He made a brief speech Friday at a rented guest house, where he expressed regret he had not returned earlier.

“From the earthquake of January 12th 2010, the official death toll is 306-thousand,” he said in French. “Unfortunately, I did not come here at the time when it first unfolded.”

It was his most extensive public statement since his surprise return to the country where he faces a potential trial for corruption and human rights violations.

Duvalier said, “I would also like to use this opportunity to express once again my profound sadness to my compatriots who believe they were harmed during my governance.”

The former dictator known as “Baby Doc” was deposed nearly 25 years ago in a popular uprising, and was living in exile, in Paris, on the hundreds of millions of dollars bhe is accused of looting from Haiti when he fled aboard a US military plane. He returned last Sunday, to the surprise of the government, but he’s had very little to say until; Friday’s news conference.

“From the moment I decided to return to Haiti to commemorate this sad anniversary with you in our country, I have been expecting all kinds of persecution,” he said. Haitian officials have issued charges against him, and numerous people have filed claims against him for human rights violations.

Duvalier, and his father “Papa Doc”, together held Haiti in the grips of a bloody dictatorship for decades.

Duvalier did not take the opportunity during the brief meeting with reporters to say how long he expected to remain in Haiti.


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