The day before Portugal’s António Guterres solemnly stepped into the limelight as the ninth secretary-general of the UN, a less well-known countryman attached to the intergovernmental organisation celebrated the New Year with two distinctly left-feet and rather overly active hip gyrations.
As the saying goes: “you couldn’t make this up”.
52-year-old Rodrigues Palma was one of two ‘military observers’ working for the United Nations who managed to get himself filmed dancing with a FARC rebel.
The clip was shot by Spanish news agency EFE from inside a jungle camp in Northern Colombia, reports CBC News.
As the station stressed, the short film showed “two men wearing blue vests with the UN insignia dancing hip-to-hip with female guerrillas”.
The film incensed authorities in Colombia, one of which tweeted: “What a joke. How can we trust the UN delegates’ impartiality when they go partying with the FARC?”
Thus, as Guterres’ prepared to step into his new role, the UN peace-keeping mission in Colombia was hurriedly releasing a statement, promising to take appropriate action.
The nationalities of the men involved were not revealed, but the statement affirmed that their behaviour was “inappropriate and does not reflect the values of professionalism and impartiality of the mission”.
It did not take long for national media to discover that one of the men was a ‘senior Portuguese Naval officer’ and that he was being recalled forthwith.
The next day, national tabloid Correio da Manhã succeeded in getting his identity and explaining that he had only gone to the party on the orders of his boss, and “accepted to dance” as a matter of courtesy.
Needless to say, the statement from the major general of the Armed Forces sticks: “Recent events in Colombia” have “affected the conditions for the continuation of the mission of a Portuguese military agent stationed there”.
Palma was part of a six-man mission posted to Colombia on November 16 with the brief to monitor the ceasefire and end of hostilities that have ravaged Colombia for years.