Fujimori breaks silence and urges release of hostages
Rebel leader makes radio contact with Peruvian television
December 22, 1996
Web posted at: 12:20 a.m. EST (0520 GMT)
LIMA, Peru (CNN) -- In his first public statement since
leftist rebels seized the Japanese ambassador's house on
Tuesday, Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori late Saturday
said he won't use force if the rebels disarm and release all of some
340 hostages held at gunpoint.
"The proposal is concrete, that the captors lay down their
arms...and facilitate the release of all the hostages,
without exceptions," he said in a televised statement.
He condemned the takeover of the house by communist
terrorists as "a repugnant attack" and ruled out the prospect
of releasing some 300 imprisoned members of the Tupac Amaru
Revolutionary Movement in exchange for the hostages' freedom.
That is one of the group's key demands.
"The liberation of those who commit murder and terrorism is
unacceptable," Fujimori said, speaking rapidly and firmly.
"They fake dialogue by putting an AK rifle on the necks of
the hostages," he said, accusing the Tupac Amaru of sowing
terror for a decade.
"You can't talk about peace nor agreement while terror is
used as the main argument," Fujimori said.
Leftist commander speaks
Peruvian officials earlier Saturday restored the flow of
water to the Japanese ambassador's home while the rebel
commander offered hope that more captives would be freed.
Speaking live on walkie-talkie from the occupied residence
to Peruvian television, a man identified as Nestor Cerpa
Cartolini said Saturday he would continue gradually to free
captives who are not officials of the Peruvian government.
He did not reveal the time frame.
"I want to repeat that the gentlemen who are the great
majority and have no connection with the government will be
released by degrees," said Cerpa Cartolini. He told listeners
he understood the anguish of hostages' families, but called
Cerpa Cartolini also said he will consider laying down arms
and joining the political process.
His comments were reported shortly after officials restored
utilities to the occupied residence. The city restored the
electricity for several hours, but later Saturday again cut
the power off.
Hostages, held at gunpoint in the elegant house since
Tuesday, have been living in crowded, squalid conditions. And
the move to restore utilities came amid growing concern about
the health of the hostages.
"There could be an outbreak...of cholera and diarrhea because
of the lack of water," Peruvian Medical Federation president
Max Cardenas said Saturday outside the besieged residence.
The Red Cross has delivered basic supplies for several days,
and Saturday began sending playing cards, chess sets and
dominoes to help the hostages pass the time.
The crisis began when about 20 members of a leftist group
seized the residence of Japan's ambassador to Peru during a
party Tuesday night.
About 340 hostages are being held, and the Tupac Amaru rebel
leaders have threatened to kill them unless officials release
hundreds of their imprisoned confederates.
Peru's 'most-wanted' man is in charge
Recently freed hostages said the leader of the leftist Tupac
Amaru terrorists holding the hostages is one of Peru's most
wanted and dangerous men: Nestor Cerpa Cartolini.
Cerpa Cartolini is a co-founder of the Tupac Amaru movement
who was jailed in the late 1970s for involvement in the
bloody takeover of a textile factory in which three policemen
He is also credited with a dramatic 1990 tunnel escape that
freed Tupac Amaru leader Victor Polay and nearly 50 other
comrades from one of Peru's maximum security prisons. Polay
was recaptured two years later, but Cerpa Cartolini has
remained at large even as Peruvian authorities congratulated
themselves for having contained the terrorist threat.
"There is absolutely no doubt that it is Cerpa Cartolini who
has directed and is directing this operation," said Manuel
Romero, editor of Peru's leading business newspaper, who was
released with 37 other hostages Friday.
"We're not talking about just anyone," said Javier Diez
Canseco, another former hostage. "If this leader has placed
himself in the lion's den it's because he's going for broke."
Unlike the other leader of the Tupac Amaru movement who has
middle-class origins, Cerpa Cartolini is from a working-class
background and is considered a ruthless man of action.
Correspondent Lucia Newman and Reuters contributed to this report.
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