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MEXICO & THE AMERICAS

Colombian general whose kidnapping disrupted peace talks resigns

Citing 'military honor,' Colombian general freed by leftists resigns after his kidnapping disrupts peace talks

A Colombian army general announced his resignation from the armed forces Monday night, a day after he was released by rebels who kidnapped him in a remote village to which he had traveled in plainclothes and without a military escort.

At a news conference at a military hospital in Bogota, Ruben Dario Alzate said he was resigning his commission "for my military honor and for love and respect for military institutions."

Alzate’s kidnapping on Nov. 16 caused President Juan Manuel Santos to suspend peace talks with Alzate's captors, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and order a large-scale manhunt in Choco province, a remote jungle region near the Panamanian isthmus.

The resignation didn’t come as a complete surprise. During the two weeks he was held captive, Alzate came under criticism for traveling in a lawless area without bodyguards.

Media pundits asked in columns and over the airwaves how the general, who was kidnapped along with an army captain and a civilian lawyer, could have risked being captured and upsetting peace talks by traveling in an area known to be rife with FARC guerrillas.

Earlier Monday, before Alzate's news conference, Santos told a gathering that he would demand an explanation of how the general could take such a trip at a time when the country was engaged in sensitive, high-profile peace talks in Havana.

Alzate told reporters that he had visited Las Mercedes village without his entourage to demonstrate solidarity with its impoverished residents. The army was helping build a community energy project there. But FARC fighters happened upon him and took him into custody.

Colombia’s negotiating team, headed by former Vice President Humberto de la Calle, returned to Cuba on Monday, although no specific date has been set for a resumption of talks.

Kraul is a special correspondent.

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