Every genocide must have what you might call its "doctor," its cruel and merciless master of death, its unwavering murderer. These men put the ideologies to work. They systematically dispose of the enemy, surgically remove it. But few of them are political idealists. They are more mercenary than philosophical, more calculating than soulful. Before the UP came along, Colombia had had its share of "doctors." During La Violencia, a paramilitary known as "Blackblood" once drank several liters of his dead adversary's blood to illustrate his resolve; another known as "The Butcher" hung his victims in a tree before cutting off their faces. During the period of the UP, there was a "doctor" called Black Vladimir whose specialty was chopping his victims to pieces before disposing of them in a river.
Vladimir's real name was Alonso de Jesús Baquero. And to all who encountered him as a youngster, he seemed a willing and able student. In the strange world that is Colombia, Baquero's first teachers were members of the FARC, long before they had created the UP. The UP, in the end, would become one of Baquero's favorite targets. But in the beginning, Baquero was a model rebel soldier, the type his guerrilla commanders would use as an example of revolutionary spirit and camaraderie. It was the 1970s when Baquero joined the rebels, and the FARC was starting to extend its reach. Willing boys like Baquero were filtering into the guerrillas' ranks on a massive scale. But few could match Baquero's gumption. He was simply fearless.
The FARC taught Baquero at their centro de pioneros, its "Pioneer School" in the eastern foothills of Antioquia, where he had grown up with his peasant family. The area was part of the Middle Magdalena Valley, where Baquero would later kill countless UP militants. After they trained him, the guerrillas made him a messenger and a spy. The rebels gave the eleven-year-old Baquero ammunition and sometimes rifles to carry into heavily militarized areas. The