Just days after a video of UN staffers dancing with FARC rebels caused an international scandal in Colombia, a new set of pictures obtained by Fusion shows a second New Year’s eve party where a different group of UN peace monitors similarly spent the night partying with another unit of FARC guerrillas.
The new photos were taken by photographers Damien Fellous and Christian Escobar at a camp in the western province of Cauca, where the guerrillas have been waiting for the six-month disarmament program to begin.
Fellous says the photographs show a UN peace monitor, dressed in his blue vest, dancing with a female guerrilla dressed in civilian clothes.
“How can you have peace in a country if people can’t dance?”- Damien Fellous, photographer
Members of Colombia’s National Police, who are stationed in the area to provide security for UN staffers, can also be seen dancing with the rebels.
The policemen, Fellous said, wore khaki vests over their traditional green shirts. Fellous, a French photographer, said he was at the rebel camp on Dec. 31 to document how the guerrillas celebrated their final New Year’s as armed members of the FARC.
The photographer told Fusion he snapped the pictures of everyone dancing together because it shows how some Colombians are trying to bury the hatchet after five decades of war.
“It’s a symbol of reconciliation,” said Fellous, who’s been covering Colombia’s war for the past nine years.
But not everyone in Colombia is happy about the party pics. Earlier this week, Colombia’s conservative opposition leaders lashed out at the UN after the initial EFE video emerged of peace monitors and the guerrillas dancing at a rebel camp in northern Colombia.
Colombian conservatives have staunchly opposed the peace deal hatched last year between the FARC and the government. They argued images of UN staffers fraternizing with the FARC cast doubts on the international agency’s “impartiality.”
The UN currently has some 280 peace monitors in Colombia. In the following months they will be tasked with collecting the FARC’s weapons and making sure that the army and the guerrillas stick to the terms of the ceasefire.
The UN on Wednesday dismissed the four peace monitors who were caught on video partying with the FARC at a camp in northern Colombia. The UN called the conduct “inappropriate” and not in standing with the organization’s values of “professionalism and impartiality.”
Carolina Azevedo, A UN spokeswoman in Colombia, told Fusion that the organization is investigating the second batch of photographs published by Fusion.
“We are completely committed to impartiality,” Azevedo said via WhatsApp.
Many people in Colombia think the controversy over the dancing is silly, and reeks of political posturing by opposition leaders who are trying to discredit the peace process.
Fellous says he was surprised by kerfuffle over the first video, and hopes his photos are not similar cause for scandal.
“They only danced for a couple of songs—and the policemen didn’t drink,” he said. “How can you have peace in a country if people can’t dance?”
Correction: An initial version of this article stated the UN has 400 peace monitors in Colombia. The current number is 280, though the UN plans to scale this up to 450.