Colombians are getting fired up over a New Year's Eve video that shows two UN staffers partying with the Marxist FARC guerrillas at a remote rebel camp in the arid northern part of the country.
The video, which was shot by the EFE wire service and is now making national headlines, shows two men from the UN peace monitoring mission in Colombia, dressed in their trademark blue vests, dancing happily with female guerrillas.
To some eyes, the video looks innocent and joyous—a celebration of peaceful times and a sign that the guerrillas are relaxing after five decades of war.
But not everyone in Colombia sees it that way. The video has put the UN in hot water among conservative war hawks who are still grumbling over the peace deal and say the government is making too many concessions to the FARC.
According to members of Colombia's right-wing opposition, the dance video casts doubts on the UN's ability to be an “impartial” observer of country's peace process. In the coming months, UN teams will be tasked with collecting weapons from the guerrillas and making sure that the army and the rebels, stick to their ceasefire.
“What a joke!” tweeted conservative congresswoman Maria Fernanda Cabal. “How can we trust in the UN's delegates´ impartiality when they go partying with the FARC?”
Conservative activist Andres Portillo echoed those sentiments. “How can the UN verify complaints when they are partying with the FARC. Are they neutral?” he tweeted.
Government supporters and journalists who have followed Colombia's guerrilla war have replied with messages of their own asking the opposition to stop fretting over something so trivial.
“Human beings sharing New Year's. How horrible!” tweeted Alejandra Lasso.
U.S. journalist Jon Lee Anderson, who has closely followed Colombia's war, chastised the opposition for not speaking out about more serious matters.
Adriaan Alsema, editor of news website Colombia Reports, said the opposition's complaints over the video appear to be political theater designed to undermine the credibility of the peace process. Several opposition members, including former President Alvaro Uribe, could be investigated for war crimes by a special tribunal created as part of the treaty.
”They have every motive, not just ideological motives, to undermine the credibility of the peace process,” Alsema told Fusion. “Within a year, many of these people could be standing in front of a judge.”
The UN, meanwhile, has tried to cool the controversy by issuing an apologetic statement. The UN called the behavior of its dancing staffers “inappropriate” and said it did not represent its “values of impartiality and professionalism.”
The UN hinted that it would sanction its two dancing staffers but did not identify them or the country they come from. “The UN mission in Colombia will take the appropriate measures,” the statement reads.
Some 400 UN staff members are in Colombia to monitor the ceasefire and help facilitate the handover of FARC weaponry. Most of the peace monitors are unarmed military officers on loan from other UN member states. Some are stationed in rural areas where new camps are scheduled to be built for the guerrillas as they make a six month long transition to civilian life.
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.