Under an agreement to end the weeklong hostage crisis, Panama plans to send an airplane Saturday to pick up about 10 guerrillas and possibly 10 of their 39 remaining hostages, a top Panamanian official said tonight by telephone.
Details of the agreement with the Cinchonero Popular Liberation Movement remain unclear. A senior Honduran official insisted that the rebels were offered only passage out of the country.
The Panamanian official, who asked not to be quoted by name, said his government had offered "any help it could" to the Hondurans earlier, but the offer was not accepted until this afternoon when Honduran President Roberto Suazo called Panamanian President Ricardo de la Estriella and asked for the plane.
The Cinchoneros take their name from an obscure 19th century Honduran peasant movement but have extensive present-day ties with neighboring El Salvador's leftist rebels. They stormed the Chamber of Commerce building here last Friday, taking hostage more than 100 business leaders and government functionaries as well as the economic and treasury ministers.
Their initial eight demands included calls for the withdrawal of all U.S. military advisers from Honduras, the repeal of an anti-terrorist law and the withdrawal of Honduras from the anticommunist Central American Democratic Community.
Those demands were subsequently dropped, however, and the guerrillas concentrated on asking the release of about 60 prisoners allegedly held by Honduras. These prisoners reportedly include Salvadoran guerrillas who already have been turned over to their home government.
There have been several releases of hostages, with groups of up to 20 let go at a time. Two more were released from the building tonight.