Colombian General Ruben Dario Alzate resigned on Monday, one day after his release by FARC rebels who had captured the top official unarmed in rebel-controlled territory.
Alzate appeared on national television to give his first public statement after the kidnapping on November 16 and subsequent 14 days of captivity.
The general, whose capture had puzzled the military and President Juan Manuel Santos alike, said his decision to enter known rebel territory ignoring all security protocol had been his own decision and that he would resign.
“For my military honor, and love and respect for the institution I have requested my retirement from active duty,” said Alzate, who had had several meetings with Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon and the military high command since arriving from the jungle on Sunday afternoon.
The general’s capture in the western Colombian state of Choco, spurred President Juan Manuel Santos to suspend ongoing peace talks with the FARC and embarrassed the military command which was unable to explain how an official of such rank could enter FARC territory without any protection.
The peace talks were resumed in Cuba on Monday after negotiators agreed to find ways to “de-escalate” the 50-year-long armed conflict before resuming negotiations scheduled on the original agenda.
Alternative energy projects
As requested by the president earlier on Monday, Alzate explained the actions that resulted in his capture, claiming he had entered known rebel territory in civilian clothing and unarmed in order to gain the trust of locals in one of the villages that fell under his command.
“I have intended to keep a low profile when carrying out alternative energy development projects in Las Mercedes region. I dressed in civilian clothes in order to gain trust of the community,” Alzate began by explaining the puzzling circumstances of his capture.
“We were captured by four armed individuals. At the time of the kidnapping we were absolutely defenseless. It was a major violation of international human rights,” said the general.
The FARC have said the capture of the general was a legitimate act of war. The rebels, currently negotiating victims as part of the peace talks with the government, claimed to have respected the enemy official’s rights.
Locals in the FARC-controlled jungle village have contradicted the official version and told reporters the general had left their village with unarmed men after a conversation in front of the church.
Tied up and forced to walk
Alzate said that during his 14 days in captivity, he and his two companions were tied up and forced to walk for eight hours a day by the guerrillas who in 50 years of conflict had not been able to capture a military official of Alzate’s rank.
The general additionally said that photos of him shaking hands with rebel chief “Pastor Alape,” and Norwegian and Cuban mediators, was part of a “media show” in which he was “forced to participate.”