Four members of the United Nations team monitoring the Colombian peace deal have been sacked after footage emerged of them dancing with Farc rebels at a New Year’s Eve party in their jungle camp.
Two men in the blue vests of the UN were seen swaying to the tropical beats, surrounded by dozens of dancing couples. Roast pig was served, and goat meat, in their open-air celebration.
But the innocent-seeming footage was met with anger by some in Colombia, who said that it showed a lack of independence for the observers, who are supposed to remain neutral.
Since November around 300 UN monitors from a variety of countries have been stationed in eight regional offices across the country.
María Fernanda Cabal, a senator with the opposition Centro Democrático party, said it was “an embarrassment” to the country.
“The UN should show that it takes its role seriously, and not be participating in Christmas parties. The UN is a bureaucratic international business which doesn’t make sense,” she said.
Juan Diego Gomez, a senator with the Conservative Party, said the government needed to pay attention to anger on social media, because “it creates a lot of mistrust of the peace process.”
The government of President Juan Manuel Santos –who last month was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for ending the 52-year war – complained to the UN.
On Thursday the UN announced the four – the two dancers, plus their supervisor and another involved – had been reprimanded. One was from Portugal, and has returned to Europe.
“This behaviour is inappropriate and does not reflect the values of professionalism and impartiality of the UN Mission,” the UN said in a statement.
But Farc commanders laughed off the furore.
“The scandal of the week is our New Year’s celebrations,” tweeted Rodrigo Lodono, the Farc commander known as Timochenko.
He then posted on his Facebook page a video of the UN four-by-four being towed out of the mud with ropes by a group of Farc guerrillas.
“The far-Right would say: The UN are lacking objectivity, they should stay in the middle of the swamp and not accept Farc help,” he wrote.
Cartoons circulated, showing a female rebel dancing with a UN man, and the caption: “I’m a ‘crack shot’ for the salsa.”
On Twitter, Felix de Bedout, a Colombian journalist based in Miami, noted: “If the most serious thing that is happening in Farc zones is an end-of-year dance, then the peace process is going well.”
The Farc’s 5,700 fighters are currently gathering near 26 zones where they are due to demobilise over a period of six months. The UN will eventually have 450 monitors overseeing the process, lead by an Argentine commander, General Perez Aquino.
Founded in 1964, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is the largest rebel group in a conflict that has claimed more than 260,000 lives.
6 January 2017