It was an overcast day in Colombia's southern jungles, and the lush, grassy hills that roll toward the mountains in the west seemed covered in rebels. Their tents stretched for miles, and guerrillas clad in dark green fatigues and assault rifles draped over their shoulders milled about with the casual flair of family members on vacation. Some lay in the grass, staring at the sky. Others poked sticks into the ground that held the ponchos above their heads and protected them from the incessant rain. Some of the fighters were in their thirties, others in their early teens. They all had the dry look that you frequently see on guerrillas' faces: tired of the sun beating down on them, the rain dripping overhead, the jungle leaves scratching their cheeks, the mosquitoes biting their necks, the lack of sleep, and the boredom. There were no smiles for me as I passed by them on the dirt road, leaving dust on their scant belongings. They were bored, and they were angry.
It was April 2000, ten years after Bernardo Jaramillo had been assassinated in the Bogotá airport. The UP was dead, but the FARC was thriving. The rebels had become something no one, except perhaps themselves, dreamed possible: an army. They had gotten it done in a subtle way, but evidence of their evolution was everywhere. Down the road were some signs posted on a fence reminding all of the guerrillas' quasi-political control in the area: "Don't litter-FARC-EP"; "Take care of the trees-FARC-EP."
The EP, or "army of the people"-so ambitiously made part of the name in the rebels' historic VII Conference in 1982-was now a reality. One wooden plaque pegged to a tree called for locals to "Join the FARC-EP." It was a tempting offer for many, considering the country's ongoing economic crisis and the government's tragic ineptitude. Half the population languished in poverty, a good portion of them living in substandard conditions in crowded cities and run-down villages. The chaos and economic despair had