Peru Suspends Red Cross Visits

The Associated Press -- 22 October 1999

by Rick Vecchio

LIMA, Peru (AP) - Prison officials have suspended humanitarian visits to three jailed Peruvian Marxist rebel leaders who are in the second month of a hunger strike, the International Red Cross said.

A relative of one of the rebels said authorities had stopped letting Red Cross doctors see the three men nine days ago. A Red Cross official confirmed that Thursday.

"I can tell you it is true, and nothing else," said the official, who asked not to be identified.

The three Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement leaders started the protest on Sept. 21, demanding improved conditions in the maximum-security naval prison in Lima's port district of Callao, where they are being held.

The hunger strike spread to include 52 other rebels held in the frigid Yanamayo prison, located 12,700 feet above sea level in Callao, 525 miles southeast of Lima.

The other rebels announced they were ending their participation last week. But top Tupac Amaru leader Victor Polay and his deputies, Peter Cardenas and Miguel Rincon, pressed on with their protest, refusing food until their demands are met, said Rincon's sister, Maria Rosa Espinoza.

Espinoza said that after their last visit nine days ago, Red Cross officials told family members the rebels were already weak to the point of delirium.

"It's very painful because we don't know why, at the very least, Red Cross doctors will not be allowed in to examine them," she said.

Espinoza said the families have not been allowed to visit the prisoners since Sept. 26.

Military prison officials could not be reached for comment.