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Attorney General Resigns, Criticizes Colombian President

November 22, 1990

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Attorney General Alfonso Gomez resigned Thursday following public criticism for his punishment of an army general involved in fighting leftist rebels.

In an angry letter to President Cesar Gaviria, Gomez objected to criticisms of officials who battle to maintain democracy.

Gomez came under fire this month after ordering the removal of Gen. Jesus Armando Arias, who led the army in a bloody battle against the leftist guerrilla group M-19.

M-19 rebels took over Bogota’s Palace of Justice in 1985, and subsequent fighting with the army claimed about 100 lives, including half the justices on Colombia’s Supreme Court.

The attorney general’s office said Arias’s troops unnecessarily killed dozens of civilians in routing the rebels.

It said Arias failed to protect the lives of hostages held by the M-19.

Although Gomez had talked of resigning since August, the Arias controversy appeared to expedite his exit.

Army officers and right-wing politicians criticized the attorney general for ″punishing a defender of society.″ They said former subversives were being unjustly praised.

In the years since the Palace of Justice clash, the M-19 has renounced armed struggle and become a legitimate political party.

Opinion polls indicate the M-19 will receive more votes than any other party for seats in an upcoming assembly to reform Colombia’s constitution.

In his resignation letter, Gomez said politicians are using the Arias case for their own electoral ends.

M-19′s leader, Antonio Navarro, called the decision to punish Arias inopportune because it revived past controversy at a time his group needs support for the constitutional assembly.

Members of congress rejected the decision to sanction Arias, who retired from active duty four months ago.

After the decision, they voted him a symbolic promotion.

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