Rebels free seven, show no sign of ending standoff

LIMA — Rebels of the tupac amaru revolutionary movement holed up inside the Japanese ambassador’s home in Lima made a small gesture of conciliation by freeing seven hostages Jan. 1, but there is no sign they will give in to the government’s demands to end the 15-day-old standoff.The release on New Year’s Day seems to be part of a pattern in which the guerrillas free a small number of captives. But has done little to change the crisis, and their demands to the government for the release of about 400 of the fellow Marxist comrades remain the same.They still hold 74 hostages they consider their best bargaining chips, including high-ranking military and government officials, two foreign ambassadors, and two dozen Japanese diplomats and businessmen. They also have the brother of Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori.The seven released Jan. 1 were four Japanese businessmen and three Peruvians, including privatization official, Juan Assereto. All appeared to be well as they left the ambassador’s residence with bags of dirty clothes in hand.On Dec. 31, the rebels released two diplomats and staged a massive stunt by granting reporters an impromptu news conference inside the Ambassador’s residence. As Fujimori stayed and stewed in his office at Government Palace, Nestor Cerpa, leader of the 20 some rebels, turned the residence into center stage and harangued Fujimori’s “dictatorship” while dressed in combat gear and toting his automatic rifle. Cerpa repeated that the rebels will not surrender until the prisoners are released. He said he is in no rush to end the confrontation.