Walking Ghosts: Murder and Guerrilla Politics in Colombia

By Steven Dudley | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10

THE PERESTROIKAS

From the moment they first met, Bernardo Jaramillo and Mariela Barragán talked about death. As the two drove to the beach in her beat-up Honda Accord, he casually mentioned that he and all his colleagues were probably going to die. Maybe he was trying to impress this woman who he wanted to sleep with. But for Mariela, it was less about seduction than insecurity. Behind the couple were several cars full of bodyguards. There were fifteen armed men in all. They were assigned to protect Bernardo, the president of the UP and arguably the most threatened man in the country.

Once at the beach, the two strolled hand in hand chatting aimlessly under the stars. The bodyguards followed. The couple had been introduced just a few hours before, but Mariela felt she had known Bernardo her whole life. "We understood each other immediately," she told me later. "It doesn't happen all the time, so you know when it does." She had seen him on television, and then suddenly he had arrived for a conference in her hometown, the coastal city of Barranquilla. The UP organized a party afterward, where he grabbed her during a steamy salsa. "He was charismatic," she said. "He had a presence. He was a leader."

He was also a lady's man. Standing just over six feet tall, with curly hair and a thick mustache, the women called him "bizcocho" or "sweetie." He liked his role and played up his romantic side without shame. He wrote poems and recited them to his admirers. He listened to and sang Cuban boleros and Argentinean tangos. "He was cursi [corny]," one ex-lover told me. "But he was one of those guys who could get away with it." Bernardo had been married and had two children. But his trysts continued, and by the time he met Mariela, he was separated and living every moment as if it was going to be his last. So the two of them, bodyguards in tow, walked the beach and talked about life and death. It was the beginning of something special.

-127-

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Walking Ghosts: Murder and Guerrilla Politics in Colombia
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Preface xv
  • Prologue - The Martyrs 1
  • Part One 15
  • Chapter 1 - Fighting History 17
  • Chapter 2 - The Desert Fox 31
  • Chapter 3 - The Master Plan 45
  • Chapter 4 - Guerrilla Politics 57
  • Chapter 5 - Black Vladimir 65
  • Chapter 6 - Too Much Tic 77
  • Part Two 89
  • Chapter 7 - The "Disposable Ones" 91
  • Chapter 8 - A Moral Victory 105
  • Chapter 9 - The Return of Black Vladimir 117
  • Chapter 10 - The Perestroikas 127
  • Chapter 11 - The House of Castaño 141
  • Chapter 12 - The Suizo 153
  • Part Three 167
  • Chapter 13 - Farc-Landia 169
  • Chapter 14 - Justice as a Memory 181
  • Chapter 15 - The Great Escape 195
  • Chapter 16 - Shades of Jaime 209
  • Chapter 17 - Leftovers 221
  • Index 243
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