If you tuned in to Reini Weigel’s nightmarish story on Locked Up Abroad: Colombian Kidnap, I’m sure you have questions. We checked in with Reini to get answers and see what life is like for her today and here’s what she had to say:
What intrigued you so much about “the Lost City” in Columbia that you wanted to visit it on a solo trip? Had you traveled alone before this particular vacation?
Originally I had planned a climbing trip in Peru, but due to an achilles tendon problem I had to abandon my plans and went on a “South American history trip” instead, I visited Machu picchu, lots of sites close to Cuzco, Chan-chan, Nazca and many more historic places. My flight back was from Venezuela and the lost city was on the way there. I had friends and family that had done this trip before so felt it was a safe place to visit. I flew to St. Martha, was only going to do this one trip and was due to fly home shortly after this. It was an organized tourist track, so I was not alone.
I have traveled on my own many times or gone on holidays alone, I’ve always met interesting and nice people and never end up being alone for very long.
How long was the excursion from Santa Marta to the Lost City supposed to last?
How do you think the Colombian rebels knew where to find your group? Do you believe they were tracking you, were tipped off, or something else?
The ELN had planned the kidnapping of tourists in the lost city for over six months. It was not a usual place for them to target, it was far away from their area and it was difficult for them to get into this paramilitary controlled area, but they wanted tourists this time to make the world aware of problems in Colombia.
When your group was at camp, how did both the kidnapped victims and the captors pass the time?
It was always good to have a couple of days of rest after lots of days of walking with virtually no sleep, but if the camp was for longer time passed by very slowly. But we played cards or I tried to learn more Spanish. Sometimes I’d spend the day crying under a blanket or just lying there. The captors would go out in turns to find food, cook, chop wood, keep the fire going, clean their guns or guard us.
Did the rebels keep you apprised of the hostage negotiations or were you completely in the dark about your situation?
Sometimes they let us listen to the news on the radio, sometimes the boss Carlos would come into camp to give us some news, but often we were left in the dark or we were lied to, so we never knew what the truth really was. I was told that I would be released in a few days many times, and it was always just lies. In the end I didn’t believe it was gong to happen anymore.
You mentioned suffering from post traumatic stress disorder since your experience as a kidnapped victim. What were your first few days back home like? And what is life like for you now?
My life was a mess, the dream of huge happiness and that all would be great fell apart only hours after my liberation. I felt lost and confused, then the photo with the gun made it unbearable. I cried a lot. There was also so much to sort out, lots of unpaid bills, insurance had run out, my workplace that I hadn’t come back to in time… it was crazy. My parents were awesome and it was so good to see everyone. Now? I still have some unresolved matters hanging around, but I am continuing psychotherapy to diminish the effect it still has on me. I also suffer with constant back pain ever since, which is limiting me a lot. It is said to be psycho-somatic. I can not stand up for more then ten minutes.
Did you have an opportunity to speak with a journalist or respond to the article and photograph that was published of you holding Rafa’s gun?
I contacted William Parra and he apologized and understood my anger at him for this.
Have you had the chance to appeal the “helicopter bill” from the government? Do you still owe money on it?
I have been to court 3 times over the helicopter fee. In 2004 I won the case, but Germany appealed and I lost in 2008. I appealed again and finally lost the case at the supreme court in 2009. This court is the end of the line, there is no higher place to go to so I have to pay 12640€, and 5000€ in court and lawyers fees. I have finally had help with a big part of the sum this year, so things are looking much brighter and more managable. I am less stressed about it than I was for the past nine years.
Do you keep in touch with any of the other hostages?
I am in touch with four out of the six, not very often though. I normally meet Asier the Spanish guy once a year and we’re often on the phone too.
Do you know whatever happened to Rafa? Has he tried to contact you?
Rafa is dead, he got shot in the head by the military in his lunch break. I know this from Antonio that was part of the ELN, acting as a kind of social worker there. Him and his wife Camilla were educated people that were as nice as you could expect from someone that has been part of a kidnapping! They contacted me about a year after my release and I replied, because they held answers to my millions of questions. Many of the captors are dead due to illnesses because there is no medical care or because of the civil war.
Watch an all new episode of Locked Up Abroad: Caribbean Nightmare, Wednesday, June 20th at 10P et/pt.