Journalists approach Peru hostage house
Standoff enters third week
December 31, 1996
Web posted at: 11:00 a.m. EST (1600 GMT)
In this story:
LIMA, Peru (CNN) -- As the Peru hostage crisis entered its
third week on Tuesday, television camera crews were allowed
to approach the Japanese ambassador's residence where Tupac
Amaru rebels were holding 83 captives.
Camera operators and sound technicians -- including a crew
from CNN -- crossed police lines and stood across the street
from the walled compound, recording what may have been a
statement being read by the rebels. The content of the
statement was not immediately clear.
A sign posted at the residence on Tuesday morning and written
in Japanese invited the Kyodo News Agency to send its
Also posted were signs in Japanese saying "Happy New Year."
In addition, electrical power was restored to the residence
Cheering, clapping and singing were heard coming from the
ambassador's residence Monday night, but the reason for the
apparent celebration was not clear.
Outside, government negotiators and Red Cross officials
shuttled in and out of the compound and motorcycle police
gathered around, but it was not known if the negotiations had
Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori said he would continue
talks with the rebels, but in separate interviews with The
Associated Press and the Spanish agency EFE, Fujimori again
ruled out meeting their demand for the release of jailed
However, the president appeared to indicate that safe passage
for the rebels out of Peru was still under consideration if
the rebels lay down their weapons.
"The Peruvian government has never denied that possibility,"
he told AP in a faxed response to written questions. "But
there must be discussion."
Press reports have speculated that the government could let
the rebels seek asylum in Cuba, but Fujimori said the Cuban
government "had not been contacted" by his officials on the
His first public comments on the hostage crisis in 10 days
appeared softer in tone than his blunt televised address 10
The rebels, too, may have dropped their hard line. They are
no longer insisting, at least publicly, on the release of
their jailed colleagues.
"They're giving the image that it's possible to talk and
exchange views," said Peruvian Gen. Sinecio Jarama.
However, the relatives of jailed rebels -- who have not been
allowed to visit Peru's high security prisons since the
hostage crisis began -- fear government reprisals.
"They are not terrorists," says the mother of a jailed rebel
leader. "They are defenders of the people ... They're on the
side of the poor."
After a mail exchange allowed by the rebels on Monday, the
daughter of a hostage said her father wrote that "he is fine,
we shouldn't worry (and) this will all end soon, hopefully."
In Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto said he
was confident of the Peruvian government's ability to handle
the crisis -- so much so that he was going ahead with a
five-nation Asian trip next week that officials had earlier
said might be canceled.
Correspondents Marina Mirabella, Lucia Newman andReuters contributed to this report.
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