General Alzate resigns one day after being freed by FARC; peace negotiators to meet to discuss restarting talks
Brigadier General Ruben Alzate resigned from his post on Monday, just one day after being set free by the FARC, who had held him in captivity along with two others for 15 days.
In a related development, the Colombian peace talks delegation flew back to Havana, Cuba, to meet with their FARC counterparts to discuss restarting the peace process.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos suspended the peace talks just hours after Gen. Alzate and two others were captured by FARC guerrillas on 16 November in the department of Choco, western Colombia.
“Out of love and respect for our military institution, which has been affected by these events, I have asked the national government to withdraw me from active service,” General Alzate said during a press conference in Bogota on Monday.
Earlier in the day, the general had come under criticism for appearing in a number of photos posted on the FARC’s website and Twitter feed showing Alzate ‘hugging’ one of his captors, a guerrilla leader named ‘Pastor Alape’, who is a member of the FARC’s peace delegation in Havana.
Alape flew to Colombia to personally oversee General Alzate’s handover on Sunday.
The events of the past two weeks are seen by many – particularly right-wing former president and now senator Alvaro Uribe and his followers – as an embarrassment for the government and a propaganda coup for the leftist rebels.
Alzate also faced scrutiny for the circumstances that led to his capture and the capture of two companions – human rights lawyer Gloria Urrego, and army Corporal Jorge Rodriguez.
He told the press conference that he was on route by riverboat to a town called Las Mercedes to meet with community leaders. He said he turned down a security detail and wore civilian clothes to maintain a low profile.
“It is important to emphasize I used the plain clothes to strengthen the trust of the community that deserves our attention and approach,” General Alzate said.
“Suddenly we were approached by four armed men. We were abducted, we were completely defenceless,” he added.
By Mark Kennedy