Seventy-two men began their third month in captivity Monday, and the rebels holding them hostage said they have “all the time in the world” to wait for the government to give in to their demands.
The rebels from the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement reiterated that no one in the Japanese ambassador’s residence would be released until the government frees hundreds of jailed rebels.
“Without an exchange, there is no way out,” Issac Velazco, the rebels’ spokesman in Europe, told The Associated Press late Sunday night in a telephone interview from Madrid.
“We are not going to surrender. The (rebel) command is prepared to take all the time necessary. We literally have all the time in the world.”
The release of jailed rebels has been the rebels’ main demand since they stormed a gala party at the diplomatic residence on Dec. 17 and took hundreds of people captive. Most of the hostages since have been released.
President Alberto Fujimori has refused to discuss trading jailed rebels for hostages.
Fujimori on Monday denied that a secret military plan exists in the event that negotiations fail, and that American troops would participate.
“But we don’t deny there would be an intervention by force in the case we have already explained,” Fujimori said, referring to previous comments that he would send troops in if any hostage was killed by the rebels or died from lack of medical care.
A major Lima newspaper gave details Sunday of a purported plan to use Peruvian and U.S. troops to liberate the hostages as a last resort.
Under the plan reported by La Republica, Peruvian military commandos backed up by American troops from the U.S. Southern Command would plunge into the compound from helicopters, plant explosives at six points around the diplomatic mansion and storm the building.
The Southern Command also has denied it would participate in any such plan.
Talks between the two sides began last week, but appeared to bog down during the third meeting on Saturday. No date has been set for the next meeting.
Roman Catholic Archbishop Juan Luis Cipriani, the Vatican’s representative to an international commission overseeing the talks, was upbeat in a radio interview Monday.
“The climate in which they have conversed is sufficiently reasonable and, God willing, we can restart the conversations soon,” Cipriani said.
Peruvians also have been touched by the plight of the hostages’ families.
Hugo Sivina wrote to Japanese leader Ryutaro Hashimoto earlier this month, asking for help in getting his father - Supreme Court justice Hugo Sivina - freed in time for the boy’s birthday celebration.
He turned 12 on Monday, his wish unfulfilled.
“Greetings for my papa,” the boy told his father in a radio broadcast Monday morning.
“I am fine, papa. I am very fine. I am strong. Despite the distance, I send you a big hug.”
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: POLL: LET PRISONERS GO A new Peru survey shows: 71 percent of Peruvians in favor of improving prison conditions for Tupac Amaru rebels. Sixty-six percent were in favor of allowing the rebels to leave the country in an effort to end the crisis. 70 percent said they favored a negotiated solution; 25 percent supported a military intervention. The survey of 500 Peruvians was conducted by Apoyo S.A. on Feb. 7-9. The firm’s polls have margins of error ranging from 3 to 5 percentage points.