A GROUP of rearmed, right-wing contras holding hostages in a northern Nicaraguan city released 20 people on Sunday and promised to free the remaining 21 soon, said Francisco Mayorga, leader of a delegation mediating the crisis in the remote city of Quilali.
Jose Angel Talavera and his 400 "recontra" fighters also dropped their demands for the removal of Army Chief Gen. Humberto Ortega Saavedra and presidential chief of staff Antonio Lacayo Oyanguren. In return, the government promised not to punish them, to withdraw government troops sent to Quilali, and to study rebel demands for land and money, said Mr. Mayorga, former president of Nicaragua's central bank.
Before the agreement was announced, an opposing group of pro-Sandinista gunmen, who are also holding hostages - including Vice President Virgilio Godoy Reyes - released two of their captives. They had freed 14 on Saturday, but seized a group of nine journalists on Sunday. The pro-Sandinista group took their captives in retaliation against the recontras' action.
The compromises could be a breakthrough in the crisis, which threatens to rekindle the devastating civil war between the United States-backed contras and leftist Sandinistas in the 1980s.
Rebels from both sides are angry with the government of President Violeta Barrios de Chamorro for failing to deliver land, money, and other concessions promised after a 1990 peace accord.
The hostage crisis is the second uprising by rearmed rebels in as many months. Brazil to Guard Yanomami
President Itamar Franco called an emergency session yesterday of the National Security Council, Brazil's highest law-enforcement body, to discuss protecting the country's Yanomami Indians. They may send soldiers and police to remove gold miners and dynamite airplane runways on the Yanomami reservation, where 71 Yanomamis, including 35 children and three pregnant women, were murdered Aug. 17.
On Sunday, Yanomamis, fearing more attacks, fled 150 miles to a federal police station. They joined at least 130 tribe members who had earlier fled to the station.
About 40,000 miners entered the traditional territory of the Yanomami, the world's largest Stone Age tribe, in 1987 after government studies detected huge amounts of gold, diamonds, uranium, and other minerals in the region.
Soldiers have repeatedly tried to drive the miners from the reservation, created in 1991.
Last year, Brazilian armed forces expelled gold miners from Indian reservations in the Amazon and dynamited all runways so they could not come back. But as soon as soldiers left, the miners returned. Indian rights activists say about 3,000 miners still operate in Yanomami territory. Peru Arrest Key Rebel
Peruvian police captured Edmundo Cox Beuzeville, a high-ranking Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) guerrilla leader, officials said Sunday.
Sendero has recently bombed several buildings in the capital of Lima, and is reportedly responsible for killing 62 Ashaninka Indians in central Peru last week.
Antiterrorist police arrested Mr. Cox after following him for months, according to a military statement. It said Cox was transferred Sunday to antiterrorist police headquarters for questioning, but gave no further details. News reports said Cox was arrested Saturday night as he arrived at his home in the wealthy Lima district of La Molina.
Police arrested Sendero mastermind Abimael Guzman Reynoso and three of his closest lieutenants in September and another high-ranking leader, Marta Huatay, in October. All have been sentenced to life in prison, together with more than 250 other rebels captured since then.