Peru is suspending direct talks with leftist rebels holding 74 hostages until the guerrillas prove they are serious about negotiations, the chief government negotiator was quoted Monday as saying.
Domingo Palermo wants a “clear sign” from the rebels holed up in the Japanese ambassador’s residence before he will meet with them again, Lima’s pro-government El Comercio quoted him as saying.
The negotiator didn’t say what sign Peru wanted. The remarks seemed to mark a return toward the hard-line position Peru took at the start of the standoff, when President Alberto Fujimori said the government would not negotiate with rebels until they released all their hostages.
“We’re going to leave them in there until they get bored,” a high government official told The Associated Press. He refused to say more.
The government has negotiated directly with the rebels only one time since the Tupac Amaru stormed the Japanese ambassador’s mansion on Dec. 17 and seized hundreds of hostages at a gala cocktail reception.
The rebels released 20 hostages after Palermo’s only face-to-face talks with them, a three-hour meeting inside the residence on Dec. 28. The government has since refused the rebels’ demands for more talks.
The government’s reluctance to negotiate directly with the Tupac Amaru has revived fears among some that military intervention will be used to end the standoff.
Javier Diez Canseco, an opposition congressman released after five days as a hostage, said the stalemate was becoming “extremely dangerous” because it strengthened the position of military factions in the government that favor the use of force.
A block from the compound, shamans from across Peru prayed for the release of the hostages, shaking rattles and chanting.
“We invoke the spirits and the angels to have compassion so there is peace, not war,” said shaman Eugenia de la Caridad, as incense smoke wafted over the marchers.
The rebels’ main demand is that the government free about 300 jailed comrades, which Fujimori says he will not do.
Peru would have to get Japan’s approval to intervene militarily because the rebels are on embassy grounds - technically Japanese soil. Japan has strongly opposed any military action to resolve the crisis.