The guerrillas still hold a treasure trove of hostages.
The 140 or so captives who remained under the guns of Tupac Amaru rebels on Monday included ministers, diplomats, judges and military brass - the cream of Peruvian society - as well as perhaps 10 executives from major Japanese companies.
“Practically half the Supreme Court is still there,” said Ivan Pezua, a news editor at Expreso newspaper.
After freeing 225 hostages late Sunday from the Japanese ambassador’s residence, the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) still retains what one diplomat called “captives with high value.”
Some are business tycoons or Japanese executives who were passing through Lima and got caught at a reception at the ambassador’s residence when the rebels stormed in. A report in a London newspaper, The Independent, said the commandos have pressured companies in Tokyo to pay huge ransoms for the release of their executives.
Other hostages include Peru Foreign Minister Francisco Tudela, Agriculture Minister Rodolfo Munante, Justice Minister Carlos Hermoza Moya and Supreme Court Chief Justice Moises Pantoja Rodulfo. With Pantoja, who suffers from a heart ailment, are four other Supreme Court magistrates.
A fifth magistrate, Nelson Reyes Rios, was freed Sunday night, despite pledges by the rebels to hang onto all functionaries linked to the government unless President Alberto Fujimori releases hundreds of jailed Tupac Amaru members from jail. Why Reyes was released was unclear.
In an irony of the hostage ordeal, the rebels control several police generals who masterminded the vaunted counterinsurgency strategy that helped Fujimori cripple the Tupac Amaru group and the larger Shining Path insurgency.
Both groups were thought to be shells of what they once were.
“MRTA can afford the luxury of freeing 40 or 50 more hostages and still have enough valuable ones left to use as human shields,” said Enrique Bernales, a former leftist senator and political analyst.