Hostages appeal for negotiations as Peruvian drama remains deadlocked
LIMA, Peru (AP) _ Freed hostages called for a negotiated end to the siege at the Japanese ambassador’s house, but there was no sign today that Peru’s government or the rebels who still hold 140 people are willing to give any ground.
The select group remaining inside the walled residence _ including Japanese businessmen, top Peruvian officials and the Peruvian president’s brother _ were in their seventh day of confinement with no end in sight.
President Alberto Fujimori called South Korean President Kim Young-sam today to discuss the situation. The South Korean ambassador was taken hostage then freed, and a South Korean man working for a Japanese company is still inside the compound.
``We are doing our best to resolve the crisis without shedding blood,″ Fujimori was quoted as saying by Kim’s office. ``We expect that the ongoing third round of negotiations will be successful. We hope for an early, peaceful resolution.″
Fujimori visited the scene for the first time Monday morning, getting as close as two blocks from the sealed-off residence. Lima’s El Comercio newspaper carried a front-page photograph today showing him sitting in the back of a car with darkened windows.
Neither side made any public statement Monday, the day after the largest group of hostages was released since leftist rebels of the Tupac Amaru movement seized the compound during a Dec. 17 party.
The Red Cross delivered meals _ shepherd’s pie and salad _ and some clean undergarments. Electricity was restored for 45 minutes Monday so water for drinking and flushing toilets could be pumped to a tank on the roof.
Authorities have cut off water, electricity and phone service.
The rebels’ key demand is the release of 300 of their jailed colleagues. Fujimori ruled that out during his sole public comment on the crisis.
The only common ground is both sides’ stated desire for a peaceful resolution, which many of the freed hostages said was required.
``I hope it’s going to be resolved through negotiation. That’s the only way out,″ said British Embassy spokesman Roger Church. He was among the 225 hostages released Sunday night.
Hindering any effort at negotiation is the hostility between rebels and Fujimori, who built his reputation on getting tough with guerrillas. The government has refused to talk directly with the Tupac Amaru rebels.
```The president thinks we’re stupid,‴ former hostage Luis Peirano quoted one rebel as saying in a reference to Fujimori’s demand that the guerrillas lay down their weapons and surrender the hostages.
The rebel then restated the group’s principal demand: ``Either he frees our comrades or we all die here.″
Guerrilla commander Nestor Cerpa is keeping the hostages with the most political value, apparently to strengthen the rebels’ bargaining position in talks with the government.
Inside the compound are Peruvian Foreign Minister Francisco Tudela and the Supreme Court president; Fujimori’s brother, Pedro; ambassadors from Japan, Malaysia, Bolivia, Guatemala, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Uruguay; and several Asian businessmen.
Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto said in Tokyo today that he fears the rebels are settling in for a long war of nerves. He added that Japan still opposed sending in troops to rescue the hostages.
Hashimoto has said that Sunday night’s big release meant the rebels could better control those who remain inside.
By all accounts, the rebels who initially threatened to kill captives one by one have been treating their hostages well.
The guerrillas appear fresh, in contrast to the haggard look of many of the released hostages.
``I didn’t see them sleeping,″ said Canadian mining executive Kieran Metcalfe. ``But I also didn’t see them any worse for wear. After five days, they didn’t look like they were tired out.″
The Tupac Amaru rebels, who have called for an end to Fujimori’s free-market reforms, espouse a leftist ideology. In their communiques they say Peru’s government has ignored the needs of the poor and promoted policies to benefit the rich.
They don’t call themselves communists or Marxists. They have distanced themselves from the more violent Maoist Shining Path guerrillas.
Manual Romero, director of the financial daily Gestion, said he held an hourlong conversation with Cerpa while in captivity. He said Cerpa did not seem to hold radical views and even endorsed the government’s plan to privatize state industries.
The hostages recounted an odd ending to their captivity, saying some rebels gave quick hugs to some of the departing hostages _ a sense of shared experience felt by the captives, too.
Those who stayed behind, however, remain pawns in the bitter drama.
``Clearly they were really depressed by it,″ Metcalf said. ``As we were leaving, several of them were gathered around on the upper part of the building and you could see them looking down rather wistfully.″