U.N. fires Colombia peace observers for dancing with FARC rebels

BOGOTA, (Reuters) – A U.N. mission supervising the demobilization of Colombia’s Marxist FARC rebels fired four staff yesterday after they were seen dancing with guerrilla fighters at a New Year celebration.

A video, which shows men clad in blue U.N. jackets swaying to a salsa rhythm with female rebels, created controversy questioning the neutrality of the U.N. observers in the Andean country, where the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are demobilizing after a half-century war.

The U.N. mission, which is to collect FARC weapons and supervise more than two dozen camps, has come under fire from right-wing opponents of the peace process.

The government of President Juan Manuel Santos, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for the FARC deal, also said the dancing jeopardized U.N. neutrality.

“The U.N. Mission in Colombia has taken the decision to dismiss from service three observers present on the occasion and their direct supervisor,” the multinational organization said in a statement on Thursday, without naming the four.

“The mission reiterates its determination to verify with total impartiality the commitments of both parties to the ceasefire and laying down of arms.”

Colombia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Maria Emma Mejia, said the incident was a source of “great worry and surprise.”

FARC leaders contend reaction to the video, which has dominated local headlines since the New Year, is overblown.

“I’ll dance for peace,” rebel fighter Tanja Nijmeijer, also known by her nom de guerre Alexandra Narino, tweeted this week, tagging the Colombian police and army, plus the United Nations.


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