Thousands march to raise hostages’ spirits, support peaceful settlement
LIMA, Peru (AP) _ Cristiana Farfan on Sunday held aloft a banner with messages of hope for her boyfriend, who remained a hostage in the Japanese ambassador’s residence after she was released.
``No more violence. We want peace. Freedom, Esau. We are with you. Strength and courage,″ her sign said. She marched with several thousand others Sunday morning, in an effort to raise the spirits of the hostages still being held by leftist rebels.
Farfan, 21, was at the party honoring the Japanese emperor last Tuesday with her boyfriend, 36-year-old Esau Carpio. Tupac Amaru rebels released many of the women after they took over the residence Tuesday night.
Hours later, rebels released 225 hostages, reducing the number still held to 140. It wasn’t immeditately clear if Carpio was among those freed.
Peruvians marched, softly singing the national anthem and strewing white carnations as a sign of hope, to a street near the Japanese diplomatic compound.
Marchers indicated by their presence that they support a negotiated settlement to the crisis, not a violent attempt at rescue.
``I believe in God and we are praying and confident that, yes, there will be a peaceful outcome in the short or the long run,″ said Patricia Exebio, 25, a psychologist.
The several-mile long march came the day after President Alberto Fujimori made his first public comments on the situation.
He rejected the two dozen rebels’ demands that their imprisoned comrades be released, and urged them to lay down their arms and free all the hostages. In return, he offered them ``a way out ... with full guarantees.″
There was no immediate response from the rebels, though after Sunday afternoon they did not release any more hostages. The day before, rebel leader Nestor Cerpa had pledged he would let more people leave ``in the next hours and days.″
Raul Ferreo, 52, a medical doctor, said Fujimori’s speech was ``hard,″ but hoped it was an initial stance that he will soften.
``I think his position was too inflexible. He will have to ease up. Now we have to wait to see the reaction of the (rebels),″ he said.