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Notable recent hostage crises in Latin America

April 23, 1997

Other notable hostage crises in Latin America during the past quarter-century:

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December 1974, Nicaragua: Sandinista rebels raid a Christmas party, seize hostages and demand release of imprisoned comrades. The raiders and freed prisoners are flown to Cuba. Among those freed is Daniel Ortega, one of the leaders of a rebellion that toppled the Anastasio Somoza dictatorship in 1979.

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August 1978, Nicaragua: Sandinistas take over Congress to demand freedom for jailed comrades. After botched attempt to retake the building in which 14 people die, government gives in. Again, the raiders and freed prisoners go to Cuba. Among freed is Tomas Borge, who later becomes the Sandinistas’ interior minister and by some accounts most powerful man in the country.

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January 1980, Guatemala: Peasant, labor and student activists take over Spanish Embassy to protest government of Gen. Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia. The government refuses to negotiate and attacks; 37 burn to death, including the father of Rigoberta Menchu, who became an Indian rights activist and winner of the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize.

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February 1980, Colombia: M-19 guerrillas raid reception at Dominican Republic’s Embassy and take hostages that include 16 ambassadors, including Diego Ascencio of the United States. They demand freedom for jailed comrades and $50 million. After 61 days, they settle for $1 million and flight to Cuba. A decade later the M-19 disarm.

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September 1982, Honduras: Cinchonero guerrillas take over Chamber of Commerce and Industry in San Pedro Sula, grab 105 hostages, including some of country’s richest entrepreneurs. They free them for 20 jailed rebels and safe passage to Cuba. Wanted $20 million but got no money.

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November 1985, Colombia: M-19 take over Justice Palace in Bogota to protest to what it calls betrayal by then-President Belisario Betancour in peace talks. Army attacks, killing about 100 people, including 11 Supreme Court justices.

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March 1993, Costa Rica: Dissident Nicaraguan Contra gunmen demanding $6 million and shakeup of the Nicaraguan government occupy Nicaraguan Embassy with 24 hostages for two weeks. Four return to Nicaragua and one goes to the Dominican Republic after payment of $250,000. No political shakeup occurs.

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April 1993, Costa Rica: Five members of so-called Command of Death take over Costa Rican Supreme Court and hold 19 justices for four days, demanding $20 million. Receive $250,000 and promise of a flight to Guatemala. Told to disarm before boarding plane; they do so, leading to their capture seconds later.

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