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Colombian General Quits Over Deal

November 4, 2000

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ A Colombian army general has quit, the government said Friday _ apparently to protest a government deal he said allowed guerrilla hostage-takers to go free.

Defense Minister Luis Ramirez announced the resignation of Gen. Jaime Canal, commander of the army’s 3rd Brigade based in Cali. He did not give details, and the general could not be reached for comment.

Canal commanded operations that forced the leftist National Liberation Army, or ELN, to free the last 17 of a large group of hostages the rebels kidnapped in September from a strip of roadside restaurants outside the western city.

Canal was applauded as a hero after the hostage ordeal ended Wednesday. But in a television interview the same day, he complained that a 24-hour cease-fire in the area _ called by the government to facilitate the hostage release _ had permitted the ELN kidnappers to escape. Canal claimed he was only hours from capturing the rebels.

With kidnappings by guerrillas and rival right-wing paramilitary groups on the rise, the government has proposed a broad accord to free imprisoned guerrillas in return for soldiers, police and civilians held by the rebels. Colombia’s two main guerrilla factions are currently believed to be holding more than 500 security force members and about 1,500 civilians kidnapped for ransoms.

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