Colombia

Colombia’s FARC guerrillas suggest kidnapped general may not see speedy release

This Aug. 15, 2014 photo released by Colombia's Army press office shows Colombian Army Gen. Ruben Dario Alzate in Colombia. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos suspended peace talks with the South American nation's largest rebel group after Alzate was taken captive on Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014.
This Aug. 15, 2014 photo released by Colombia's Army press office shows Colombian Army Gen. Ruben Dario Alzate in Colombia. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos suspended peace talks with the South American nation's largest rebel group after Alzate was taken captive on Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014. AP

Colombia’s largest guerrilla group on Tuesday suggested that a general kidnapped over the weekend may not be released anytime soon — casting doubt over the future of peace talks.

In a press release, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced that their Iván Ríos Bloc had detained Brig. Gen. Rubén Darío Alzate and two of his companions on Sunday.

“Gen. Alzate has many overdue bills with popular justice,” the statement reads. “Certainly his case merits a detailed examination, in which we have to weigh many things.”

The guerrilla said they considered the general — the highest ranking officer who has ever fallen into the FARC’s hands — “enemy military personnel.”

The announcement sets the stage for a showdown. On Monday, President Juan Manuel Santos suspended the two-year long peace talks and said they would not resume until the three hostages were free.

The impasse comes after Gen. Alzate, 1st Cpl. Jorge Rodríguez and Gloria Urrego, a lawyer who advises the military, were detained at gunpoint in the remote settlement of Las Mercedes, in the northwestern department of Chocó.

Even as troops search the area looking for hostages, there were questions about why Gen. Alzate, 55, who heads up the region’s Titán military task force, was in guerrilla-controlled territory unarmed, unescorted and out of uniform.

Earlier Tuesday, guerrilla spokesman Félix Antonio Muñoz called on the government to come back to the table, suggesting that the kidnapping was the result of the administration’s insistence on negotiating without a ceasefire.

“The decision to talk amid the gunfire leads us to greater folly,” said Muñoz who goes by the name Pastro Alape.

Muñoz also said the FARC delegation in Havana was focused on the peace talk and had little sway over issues in Colombia.

“What happens in Colombia needs to be resolved in Colombia,” he said.

Guerrilla and government negotiators have been meeting in Havana since 2012 hoping to end the country’s half-century civil conflict. While progress has been made, continuing clashes are putting stress on the talks. This is the first time, however, that negotiations have been suspended.

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