On May 25, 1986, Jaime Pardo Leal had a reason to celebrate. He had just made history. In the presidential elections, the boisterous and charismatic UP presidential candidate had garnered 328,752 votes. It was a tiny percentage compared with the winner, Liberal Party candidate Virgilio Barco, who received 4,212,510 votes. But it was the most that any leftist candidate had ever gotten in Colombia. And it was four times as many votes as the Communist Party candidate had gotten in 1982. It was considerably higher than anyone, including the UP, expected. It was so stunning that Pardo himself couldn't control his excitement.
On the night of the election, he ran around the headquarters screaming at his people about the need to organize more UP "cells" of support. "If we could have visited 1,100 municipalities instead of 80, we would have gotten a much higher percentage," he spit out with an enthusiasm that startled his guests and riled up his followers. "This just forces us to work harder and create many more Juntas Patrióticas, thousands of Juntas Patrióticas…. We can't rest. We have to combine our organizing with future mayoral campaigns. How beautiful would it be to elect one hundred revolutionary mayors?"
Newly elected Colombian president Barco wasn't as excited about the UP as Pardo. Barco was the opposite of Pardo in every way. He was a tall, light-skinned man with thick, square-rimmed glasses and graying hair. In his dark suits and bright red ties he looked a lot like what he was: a Liberal technocrat from the old-school wing of his party. He had won the presidency on the back of this machine. But like so many others, he also hoped the UP would fare well so that its founders and progenitors, the FARC rebels, would end the war with the government. It had been over thirty years since the guerrillas had launched their fight, but only now was the country beginning to take them and their new political party seriously.