Even if the Unión Patriótica was dead politically, somehow its spirit lingered. Despite the obstacles-the lack of money, the dangers, the wee prestige, the small hope of self-benefit, the dim chances of helping others-people still volunteered to be leftist politicians. Even stranger, there was a group of Colombians who hung on to the idea that a leftist political coalition was possible. They created what they called the Frente Social y Político. (For many, it was just a long-winded way of saying martyrs.) These included what was left of the UP, the Communist Party, and the M-19-the rebel group turned political party. There were others who tagged themselves as "independents," but they couldn't hide. It was the 2002 election, fifteen years after assassins had riddled UP presidential candidate Jaime Pardo Leal with bullets in the mountains outside of Bogotá, but little had changed. To be a politician in Colombia was an adventure. To be a leftist politician in Colombia was a death wish.
The elections brought a typical swirl of turmoil and fear. The threats came from all sides, and everyone took cover. Machine politics still dominated Colombia, but it was under heavy protection. Liberal and Conservative politicians crisscrossed their regions behind phalanxes of security guards. One presidential candidate had seventy bodyguards with him at all times. Meanwhile, leftist politicians from the Frente on shoestring budgets slid from appointment to appointment and tried hard to strike a balance between getting to their supporters and not drawing too much attention to their campaigns. All politicians limited their public appearances. Some of them ran their campaigns from their homes, making phone calls and sending out flyers; others politicked over the television and radio. It was a virtual election without the modern equipment.
During my investigation into the UP, I had always wondered what it was like to campaign amid the threats, the bodyguards, and the guns. So during