For a bold and adventurous rebel leader, Jacobo Arenas was notoriously paranoid. Some said it was related to his mother, who never ate food she didn't prepare herself. But others simply said it was part of being a guerrilla. Since he had joined the FARC in the 1960s, Arenas had obsessed over the various plots to assassinate him he was absolutely sure were afoot. The CIA was his biggest nemesis. The U.S. spy agency, he constantly reminded his fellow commanders, was hatching plans in its Langley, Virginia, headquarters to slip poison into his food or gun him down as he rode his horse through the woods. Arenas's list of attackers would later include drug traffickers and paramilitaries who, of course, were working closely with the CIA. When perestroika began in the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev became a suspect. Arenas had reason to be afraid. In the late 1980s, drug traffickers did hire British and South African mercenaries to lead a group of paramilitaries in an attack on the FARC headquarters, the Casa Verde. The assault, however, never happened, as support for it fizzled during the training for the operation.
Given Arenas's paranoia, it seemed fitting that the commander who he picked to lead the UP carried a pendulum in his pocket. Carlos Enrique Cardona, a.k.a. Braulio Herrera, used the pendulum to snuff out plots against him and his top commanders. He swung it over his own food to check for poison and over his injured soldiers to diagnose their ailments. And when he was in trouble, he swung the pendulum in front of himself and whispered to his gods. But Braulio was a reluctant showman. One time, the government helicopter flying him and Alberto Rojas Puyo, the Communist stalwart, through the treacherous mountain pass to Casa Verde began spinning out of control. "I told him to take out the pendulum to see if we were going to make it," Rojas Puyo told me many years later. "And we both started laughing. But