By 1985, the FARC was running on all cylinders. Its top commanders were talking peace with the government of President Belisario Betancur. Its Fronts were organizing the UP in small villages and midsize towns, and guerrilla leaders were starting to make headway in the big cities. It had taken a long time, but the FARC was finally working in Bogotá, and rebel commander Jacobo Arenas was plotting his return to the capital, or so everyone believed. Arenas was to be the UP's presidential candidate, and the mere possibility that he would be campaigning in Bogotá was enough to prove, even to the skeptics, that the new party was a path to peace.
Getting to Bogotá had been a critical battle that Arenas had waged on all fronts. First he had taken on the Communist Party, then the M-19 guerrillas, and finally the traditional political powers. After almost ten years, his master plan of enveloping the country with his army was starting to come together. The guerrillas had already created several new Fronts since peace talks had begun. They had also organized hundreds of Juntas Patrióticas, the small cells of UP supporters, in towns across Colombia. If the national protests happened again, as they did in 1977, the FARC was going to be ready. Arenas had made sure of this.
Yet to most, Arenas remained an enigma. His book, which was published shortly after the FARC began forming the UP, was more political jargon than personal experience and gave little insight into Arenas's life. Still, it was a best-seller. His popularity confused people, not least because of the way he looked. Pictures appeared in the papers of the FARC commander wearing dark sunglasses, silly European-looking scarves, colorful shirts, and a train conductor's cap. It wasn't the image of a guerrilla commander, much less a presidential hopeful. It also wasn't altogether clear that he would risk his life to be the UP's candidate. In fact, the only certain thing was that he was