Colombia's politics has been called "the politics of anesthesia." There is so much death that people simply turn it off; they stop feeling. You see it in politicians who disregard death threats. You see it in wealthy city dwellers who ignore the increasing poverty and murder in the countryside. You see it in the newspapers who bury the constant reports of massacres, bombings, and combat. The anesthesia only wears off when they're directly affected by the war or when someone prods them with a stick. I would get berated by Colombians who thought international journalists were "only showing the bad side." What other side was there? I would ask. But then, after a while, I understood why they had gotten angry with me. What choice do they have? This is their country, and the easiest way to deal with the everyday violence is simply to ignore it.
Such was the case with the Unión Patriótica. By the late 1990s, the Unión Patriótica was more a political tool than a political party, more a fading memory than a reality. The FARC used the destruction of the UP to justify its neverending war against the government. The Communist Party used the UP to explain its demise in Colombian politics. But few people I spoke to outside of leftist circles even knew the UP still existed. Some of them, mostly the younger Colombians, stared blankly at me when I mentioned the party's name. To them, the UP was little more than an asterisk in a book, a brief mention in a newspaper article, a segue in a lecture. And it had only been a decade since Bernardo Jaramillo's spectacular murder by a teenage suizo in the Bogotá airport.
What was left of the party's political capital was being put into reviving this memory, understanding the UP's importance in the current conflict. It wasn't easy. So many people were still dying in Colombia. In most countries, a politically motivated assassination would have been front-page news. But in