Colombia: peace talks off as FARC capture general

Colombia's government Nov. 17 suspended peace talks with the FARC after the apparent capture of an army general by the guerillas. President‎ Juan Manuel Santos demanded the return of Brig Gen Ruben Dario Alzate Mora "safe and sound." The president told Reuters: "Tomorrow negotiators were to travel to another round of talks in Havana. I will tell them not to go and that the talks are suspended until these people are released." (BBC News, Nov. 17)

Gen. Dario Alzate, commander of the Titan Army Task Force operating in the Pacific coastal department of Chocó, was taken by presumed guerillas of the FARC's 34th Front—apparently, after he knowingly entered a FARC-controlled jungle area while dressed in civvies. Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón has been dispatched to Chocó to oversee the investigation into how the rebels managed to take a general captive—a first in 50 years of insurgency. 

Alzate reportedly had a boat take him along the Río Atrato to Las Mercedes, a FARC "red zone."  He was accompanied by an army captain, a military attorney and the boat's pilot. The occupants of the boat disembarked in a small riverside village. FARC guerillas then exited the houses and captured the apparently surprised army personnel. The soldier operating the boat witnessed the incident and managed to flee. The army has launched a search operation.

The FARC last week captured two soldiers in a confrontation with the military at Tame in the eastern department of Arauca. The rebel group denied that the detainees were kidnapped, and instead declared that they were prisoners of war.

To facilitate the current peace talks with the Colombian government, the FARC agreed to renounce the practice of kidnapping civilians and holding them for ransom, which it has recognized as a "error." The guerillas have since respected international law and surrendered "prisoners of war" to humanitarian groups. (El Tiempo, Nov. 17; Colombia Reports, Nov. 16)

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    About an hour after Gen. Alzate was taken at Quibdó municipality, the news of his abduction broke via the Twitter account of Colombia's former president, Álvaro Uribe—raising questions about how the hardline ex-mandatory and bitter opponents of the peace process knew about the capture… (PRI, Nov. 18)