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All Louisiana Hostages Due to Be Freed Today : Cubans Release First of 28 There; Offer in Atlanta Rejected

November 27, 1987|TAMARA JONES and DOUGLAS JEHL | Times Staff Writers

OAKDALE, La. — Cuban inmates at the burned-out federal prison here freed one hostage unharmed Thursday night and tentatively agreed to release their remaining 27 hostages today.

At Atlanta's riot-torn federal prison, meanwhile, Cuban inmates there rejected a proposal Thursday to release more than half of their 94 hostages.

The release of prison security guard William Hoffpauir in Oakdale was taped by a pool television crew allowed into the prison administration building--the only part of the compound held by authorities.

Cuban prisoners clapped and cheered as their comrades led Hoffpauir through the compound to the administration building, where he was embraced by Bureau of Prisons employees as he burst into tears.

Negotiator on Tape

On the videotape before Hoffpauir was led in, an unidentified government negotiator was heard to say the following to one of the four Cuban inmates who has been negotiating with authorities:

"OK, we need to have a typed agreement in here at 10 a.m. tomorrow morning. We want to call all four of them in here. All four will sign the agreement and then they will release the other 27 officers. The agreement will say this agreement goes into effect immediately upon the release of the remaining 27 officers."

And, he added, turning to the TV crew, "They want to know for sure it's reported on TV."

The Cuban prisoner was heard to say, "You got it," and the pair shook hands.

Justice Department spokesman Mark Sheehan later said the time had been changed to 1 p.m. He refused to confirm or deny any other elements of the videotape.

Hoffpauir was hustled into an ambulance and taken to Humana Hospital in Oakdale where a Bureau of Prisons guard barred the door to reporters.

J. D. Williams, regional deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Prisons, said at the prison following Hoffpauir's release that officials are "still concerned about the other 27 and hopefully they will be released in as good as shape."

In Atlanta, federal officials struggling to break a four-day impasse permitted three prominent Cuban refugees to act as mediators Thursday in negotiations with rioting prisoners holding 94 hostages at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary.

Millionaire emigre businessman Jorge Mas Canosa, poet-writer Armando Valladares and former political prisoner Roberto Martin Perez entered the prison to meet with three of the inmate leaders Thursday evening.

"These people were desired by the (prisoners)," Justice Department spokesman Tom Stewart said. "They do not represent our views, speak for us or represent us in any way."

But both Mas and Valladares have close ties to the Reagan Administration. Mas, 48, a veteran of the Bay of Pigs invasion, is founder of a powerful anti-Castro lobbying group, the Cuban-American National Foundation.

He was a key proponent of Radio Marti, the U.S.-funded station that broadcasts into Cuba. He also is a major contributor in local, state and national political races.

Author of Best-Seller

Valladares, a political prisoner for 22 years in Cuba's worst prisons, was freed in 1982. He wrote the book "Against All Hope," an international best-seller about the tortures he and others suffered there.

Martin Perez, also a former political prisoner, was freed in May after 27 years. He has mediated prison disputes in Cuba and knows several of the detainees who have taken control of the facility in Atlanta.

The inmate leaders met with the Cuban mediators for more than an hour and a half Thursday, then returned to inmate-controlled parts of the prison to discuss with other inmates the proposal to release "50 or about hostages" as a show of good faith, said Wayne Davis, an FBI special agent.

But after more than five hours of debate among inmates, during which the proposed hostage release was scaled back from 50 hostages to three, an inmate spokesman told the FBI that no hostages would be released Thursday night.

"They were about to do it, but the majority said no," Davis told reporters.

'Still Encouraged'

Although negotiations broke off for the night, with no plans that they would resume today, the Justice Department's Stewart said he was "still encouraged."

"What happened on Thursday, even though it didn't result in the release of hostages, is many times more promising than what's happend before," Stewart said.

The government's conciliatory approach to the prison crisis was signaled earlier Thursday, when Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III placed telephone calls to the families of the Atlanta hostages and the Oakdale hostages. Meese pledged that federal authorities will "not do anything that will increase their risk," because "the safety of your loved ones is our paramount goal."

"At the same time," Meese said in the calls placed from the Washington office of J. Michael Quinlan, director of the Bureau of Prisons, "we are prepared and will take necessary precautions to protect lives if any serious threat should develop.

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