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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 for understanding.

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 were killed.

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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