Peru: Sendero hostages freed —but how?

Six days after they were abducted by apparent Shining Path guerillas, hostage Camisea Consortium workers were freed in the rainforest of Peru’s Cuzco region April 14, allowing President Ollanta Humala to boast of a “flawless victory” upon his arrival that day at the Sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia—but accounts were typically sketchy and contradictory on exactly how the captives were released. The Defense Ministry said the guerillas let the workers go before dawn after they were encircled by some 1,500 police and army troops, and tried to flee. The Ministry’s account said there had been a clash, in which one National Police officer was killed. But press reports said the kidnapped workers walked seven hours through the jungle to the village of Chuanquiri, where they were transferred by bus to Kiteni, another village which was being used as a staging area by security forces. There, some freed hostages disputed the official story, with one telling Peru’s Canal N TV: “We were freed voluntarily. Be careful with the press and armed forces saying that we have been rescued.”

Accounts also indicated that 36 workers were freed, not mentioning repeated reports over the past six days that 40 were being held by the guerillas.

Humala denied having negotiated with the captors, and pledged to track them down. “We have not given in to any blackmail from these organizations,” he told reporters in Cartagena. “Now comes the second stage, the pursuit, and capture of these criminals… We will pursue them throughout the country…”

Prime Minister Oscar Valdés also said neither the government nor the Camisea Consortium had negotiated with the captors. “I can say that there was no payment or negotiation, because we have been in contact with the company, and they are aware that Peru has a very definite policy: do not negotiate with terrorists,” he said. (Peru This Week, Reuters, La Republica, April 14)

See our last post on Peru and the hostage crisis.

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