Mediators between the Peruvian government and leftist rebels holding scores of hostages have outlined a tentative agreement to end the standoff, by which the rebels would give up their captives and leave Peru in exchange for a chance at early parole for some of their jailed comrades, according to a diplomat close to the negotiations.
The diplomat, who spoke this week on condition of anonymity, said that the two sides had not completely agreed to all the points but that the mediators believed the agreement could serve as a bridge for a peaceful way out of the crisis, nearing its 100th day.
Until now, negotiations have been blocked by the demand of Nestor Cerpa Cartolini, the rebel leader, for the liberation of more than 400 of his comrades in the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, known by its Spanish initials as the MRTA. President Alberto Fujimori of Peru has refused to allow any releases.
“The most important thing is to convince Cerpa that the liberation of 400 prisoners is not viable politically and that what is needed is a political solution,” the diplomat said.
Responding on Thursday to a report in the Japanese press that he had agreed to pardon Tupac Amaru rebels, Fujimori said he “vehemently, overwhelmingly and definitively” denied any agreement that would include liberating guerrillas. “Since this incident does not end here, but will set a precedent for Peru and the international community, there can be no concessions to terrorists,” Fujimori said.
At the same time, police stepped up activities outside the hostage compound, suggesting that the standoff could still end in violent confrontation.
Fujimori said the government’s position remained the same: “Not a single terrorist who is convicted with just, proven cause will be released. If anybody has understood that MRTA prisoners will be released, they are completely wrong, because the security of Peru comes before any other issue.”
Fujimori’s denial, however, did not appear to rule out the kind of deal outlined by the diplomat - a deal that would not release the prisoners but put some of them, those not convicted of violent crimes, through an existing program of judicial review.
As the stage was set for Holy Week to begin - a time Fujimori had predicted would bring the end of the crisis - pressure grew for a solution, by whatever means. Police further isolated the besieged residence with concrete barricades and armored personnel carriers.
Inside the residence, hostages have grown depressed, many of them sleeping through the day, foreign officials said. The rebels, believing that the last hostage released for medical reasons, police Gen. Jose Rivas, faked illness and passed crucial intelligence to police, have since locked up and segregated their military captives and refused any further releases, a diplomat said.
Television news reports these days show police SWAT teams practicing raids on a mockup of the residence.