A Colombian general whose capture by FARC rebels prompted the suspension of peace talks has resigned.
Holding back tears in his first remarks since being freed on Sunday, Ruben Dario Alzate said he dishonoured the uniform he had worn for more than 30 years by not following military protocol and venturing up a rebel-dominated river without a bodyguard and dressed as a civilian.
President Juan Manuel Santos had suspended two-year-old talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) after the general, a captain and an attorney were seized in western Colombia on November 16. They were travelling to visit a civilian energy project in the remote western region.
“I need to recognise that my eagerness to be of service and the love I hold for the people of Choco has brought me to not apply the security procedures that I should have adopted to travel to that community,” Alzate said.
He was the first general to be taken by the rebel group in a half-century of fighting.
Dressed civil to ‘win trust’
In a televised address on Monday, Alzate said he had violated security protocols to keep a low profile and win trust when meeting with local communities.
Al Jazeera’s Alessandro Rampietti, reporting from Bogota, said Colombians had been waiting for the general to explain why he was in FARC-controlled territory without security and in civilian clothes.
“All sorts of conspiracy theories where being put forth in past days,” he said. “But since the beginning people who were close to him said he had been involved in social programmes in the area and was trying to change the people’s perception of the state and the military in a region which had seen very little state presence in the past decades.”
The general said his captors forced him and his companions to walk through the jungle for eight hours per day and that he was handcuffed at night.
FARC and the Colombian government began negotiations in Cuba in 2012 to seek to end a conflict that has killed more than 200,000 people since 1964.