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Colombia Calls Off Peace Talks With Rebels Over Captured General

The Colombian government has called off talks with Marxist rebels over the capture of a Colombian Army general.

Reporting for our Newscast unit, John Otis says the talks were designed to bring an end to 50 years of fighting between the Colombian government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

John sent this report:

"General Ruben Dario Alzate was detained by FARC rebels while traveling by riverboat in a remote jungle region. It marks the first time that the guerrillas have taken an army general captive.

"The Colombian government is calling the incident a "kidnapping" and has suspended peace talks that began two years ago in Havana, Cuba. The two sides are half-way through the negotiating agenda and a final accord was expected to be signed next year.

"But President Santos now says the talks are on hold until the general is released."

As we've reported, the talks have been ongoing in Cuba for months now. Back in June, the FARC declared a unilateral ceasefire.

The AP reports that Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos called the abduction "totally unacceptable."

"The FARC is responsible for the life and safety of these three people," Santos said.

The wire service adds:

"The surprise blow comes as frustration with the two-year-old peace talks builds over slow progress and the guerrillas' apparent refusal to wind down attacks in areas where they remain dominant. In the past few days, the FARC captured two soldiers following intense fighting in northeast Colombia — it has since offered to free them — and killed two members of an indigenous tribe who confronted rebels.

"The FARC swore off kidnapping of civilians in 2012 but considers captured military personnel prisoners of war. It also has been clamoring for a cease-fire while peace talks continue, something Santos has rejected for fears it would allow the guerrillas to regroup after years of battlefield defeats at the hands of Colombia's US-backed military."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is an international correspondent for NPR. He was named NPR's Mexico City correspondent in 2022. Before that, he was based in Cape Town, South Africa.
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