UN removes 4 envoys from Colombia for partying with rebels
Posted January 5
BOGOTA, Colombia — The United Nations removed four officials from its peacekeeping mission in Colombia following an uproar over a video showing observers dancing with leftist rebels they're supposed to be monitoring.
The U.N. in a statement Thursday promised "full impartiality" in its efforts to verify compliance with a deal between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia aimed at bringing an end to decades of bloody fighting.
A video of observers wearing U.N. vests dancing with female guerrillas at a New Year's party sparked an outcry from opponents of the peace deal. Both Colombia's government and the U.N. have called their behavior inappropriate.
But that hasn't satisfied many of the peace deal's conservative opponents, who have accused the U.N. of partying with terrorists and putting at risk their trusted position as the recipient and caretaker for the huge cache of weapons the FARC are required to hand over as part of the peace deal.
The FARC have also reacted angrily to what they see as the U.N.'s capitulation and said they would withdraw from the committee overseeing adherence to the peace accord in the area where the observers were working.
The U.N. wouldn't provide the names or nationalities of the dismissed observers but the majority of the 500 or so being deployed across the country come from Latin America. One of those involved was a military officer from Portugal who was recalled from service by his superiors in Lisbon.
President Juan Manuel Santos on Thursday visited one of the 26 rural areas being readied to receive the FARC in the coming days. He acknowledged that there had been delays and logistical hiccups preparing the camps to receive the FARC's 8,000 or so fighters but that progress was on hand and that the FARC themselves would now be given resources to build installations that will be their home for the next six months.
He also paid tribute to Colombian troops who are will stand on the perimeter of the rural zones providing security to the FARC.
"Those who previously were your adversaries in combat now trust you with their own security," he told the troops. "This speaks very highly of Colombia's peace process."