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Western Press Review: The World Notices Guerillas in Peru

Prague, 20 December 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The North American press focuses today on Peru, where Marxist revolutionaries hold hundreds of hostages -- including high-ranking diplomats --- captured Tuesday at a party honoring the Japanese emperor. Analysts note particularly the dilemma of Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, a Peruvian of Japanese descent, whose government had been claiming success in a hard-line, anti-terrorist campaign.

NEW YORK TIMES: The origins of Tupac Amaru

James Brooke examines the history of the revolutionary group whose forces invaded the embassy. He writes today: "Masters of publicity, the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement first burst into Peru's largest news media market, Lima, in 1984 with a spray of machine-gun fire against the U.S. Embassy, then the most important foreign mission. Twelve years later the same guerrilla group is holding hundreds of hostages -- and the attention of the world's press -- at the Japanese Embassy, arguably the most important foreign mission in the era of President Alberto Fujimori. Middle class, pro-Castro and once vaguely romantic, the guerrillas were always overshadowed by Peru's more powerful Shining Path."

In an analysis in the same newspaper today, Calvin Sims writes from Lima: "The guerrillas appear to have singled out the Japanese Ambassador's residence because Japan has been a staunch ally of Fujimori, whose family is part of a small Japanese immigrant community here."

He writes: "The seizure poses a difficult problem for Fujimori. He crippled the Shining Path movement by bold military measures, but the Japanese -- who are a leading foreign investor, and who have traditionally preferred to negotiate with terrorists -- are urging him to put the safety of the hostages first. Because the residence is Japanese territory, Fujimori would theoretically need Japan's permission to storm the grounds. Some police officers said they had retreated from the compound during the fighting, because they were unsure of their jurisdiction."

Sims says: "The seizure sent shock waves throughout the international community, which condemned the attack but encouraged Fujimori to show restraint."

THE MIAMI HERALD: Fujimori is in an untenable fix

The Miami Herald covers Latin American events more closely than any other North American newspaper. Three correspondents in Lima take a similar tone in a team-written analysis today, that Fujimori is placed in an untenable fix. They write: "The siege has clearly embarrassed Fujimori's powerful security services, recently accused of harassing Presidential opponents, and cast a pall over Peru's growing image as a magnet for foreign investments."

Their analysis continues: "Terror experts predicted the hostage crisis might now enter a period of tedium in which rebel and government negotiators try to win the upper hand, until both sides are forced to make concessions by the deteriorating conditions at the mansion." The team writes: "Fujimori, who became one of Peru's most popular politicians through market economic reforms as well as harsh crackdowns on both Tupac Amaru and the more deadly Shining Path guerrillas, faces an excruciating dilemma. Caving in to rebel demands or allowing a prolonged standoff would undermine his tough anti-guerrilla policy. But foreign governments, whose ambassadors are among the hostages, have called for him not to try anything rash."

WASHINGTON POST: A look at the Peruvian government's bind.

Gabriel Escobar probes the roots of the Peruvian government's bind. He writes in a news analysis: "The brazen attack could not have been better timed. As many as 700 people were at the party, which was in honor of Japanese Emperor Akihito's birthday, when about two dozen gunmen, members of the Marxist guerrilla group known by its Spanish initials MRTA, stunned the gathering and subsequently the world."

Escobar says: "The MRTA is demanding changes in the government's economic policies to improve the lot of the poor; the release of its members jailed here and in other countries; safe passage for the gunmen to the jungles of central Peru, where they would release the last hostages; and a war tax, whose amount was not specified."

He writes: "The possible release of jailed guerrillas is an extremely sensitive subject in Peru -- not only because of their past but also because Peru's intelligence services, military and police would oppose such a move. There is already fear that any retreat by the government could spark a new wave of violence here, reinvigorating not only MRTA, which was thought to have diminished in strength in recent years, but also the Shining Path guerrilla group, which once was far larger than MRTA but has been gutted by Fujimori's anti-terrorism campaign."