Colombia's Defence Minister Rodrigo Rivera resigned Wednesday amid growing criticism of the security forces and increasing attacks by the narco-terrorist rebel groups in the country. Last week it was also revealed that the number of ‘disappeared’ in Colombia is almost 62.000.
Rivera had held the post since President Juan Manuel Santos took office in August 2010, and other government sources said his resignation could lead to a broad command restructuring of the armed forces and national police.
Local media reported that, in a short speech before reporters, Minister Rodrigo Rivera said, Today I feel that I must end this period of my life, in order to explore new ways in which to serve my country. For this reason I must present my resignation as Minister of National Defence.
Still, according to local press, in his speech, Rivera stressed successes made by the military while he was in office.
During these months we have dealt the heaviest blows in our history against the narco-terrorist structure of the FARC. We freed Colombia of the person who was the symbol of terror, alias Mono Jojoy and little by little, through effective offensive actions, we have decimated the security ring of the supreme leader of narco-terrorism, alias Alfonso Cano, neutralizing one by one the major criminals that commit crimes within the central command of this narco-terrorist organization, the former minister said.
However Rivera’s ousting could also be linked to recent revelations from Colombia’s National Search Commission for Disappeared People that announced the total number of people who have ‘disappeared’ (vanished without a trade) during the course of the ongoing conflict has been close to 62.000.
The commission, which is overseen by Colombia’s ombudsman office, announced of the 61,604 known victims as of Aug. 26, 14,427 are women and 47,177 are men. The institution had registered 47,757 cases of forced disappearance up to June 2010, but its work over the past year has brought the figure to almost 62,000.
In a statement Ombudsman Volmar Perez invited the public to participate in the activities related to the International Day of the Disappeared, events which will continue until Sept. 2.
Perez said that to report a disappearance it is not necessary to wait for a specific amount of time since the person was last seen, but rather such an occurrence can be reported “immediately” with the aim of arriving at a complete tally of victims in Colombia as quickly as possible.
Colombia, which has been experiencing a prolonged internal armed conflict for almost 50 years, is among the countries with the greatest number of disappeared people, according to data compiled by the commission.