Interview | 2/5/2009 12:00:00 AM
“All we could do was wait”: wife of kidnapped Colombian politician
SEMANA INTERNATIONAL spoke to Patricia Nieto, wife of former provincial deputy of Valle del Cauca Sigifredo López about the years her husband has been away and how she imagined his return
López is one of the 12 provincial deputies kidnapped in a massive action on April 11 2002. He was then 38 years old. López is now the only one in the group who survived after the remaining eleven were murdered by the FARC in 2007.
SEMANA INTERNATIONAL spoke to her about how she felt when she found out her husband would be released and what she hopes to do once they can be together again.
How do you imagine his return, Mrs. Nieto?
We’re all waiting to see him. We want to make sure it is real, we want to share things, to hug him, to make the most of the opportunity of having him back home. This confirms what God has done for us. That’s why we need to keep fighting for the ones who have still not returned home.
How did you react to the news that he would be released?
For me, since the day the FARC announced the release, my life has changed. Today I can say that it is real: me and my children are going to have Sigifredo back home.
How do you and your children plan to receive him?
They plan to take him on a tour around the city, to show him everything he has missed about Cali in these years. They have even discussed who is going to drive and details like that. They want to tell him their stories, to hug him, to tickle him as they used to.
How has it been living without your husband for all these years?
There hasn’t been a day without me paying attention to everything that goes on around his situation. Even today, when we have this wonderful news, we’re still waiting. That’s how everything has been, a constant wait.
And your children? How have they coped with Mr. López’ ordeal?
They have grown with the illusion of seeing him everyday. As they were growing up they weren’t able to have him besides them when they most needed him. Before, the three of them shared a lot. They went to the cinema, they played football and went horse riding. Now this bond is lost.
Sigifredo made the most out of the proofs of life we got from him. He was always there as a father telling my boys to behave, to keep up the good grades, to be responsible, he advised them about their girlfriends, even about sex. Today I know Sigifredo is going to be proud of his children. They have suffered a lot, but they have been our support, our reason to keep going on.
Did you feel powerless throughout the process?
Yes. I have always been aware of everything that happens, and many times I felt my efforts were worth nothing. The only thing we, the families, can do are the campaigns that the media makes possible, an effort for our loved ones to be heard and not to be forgotten
What has given you strength?
Faith. If we don’t have faith, our lives just come apart. For us, like a family, that has been the most important thing overall, to believe in God, to believe in the possibility of loving, of wanting God to watch over us and bless us. We can feel and hug Sigifredo through the distance. Thank God today life gives us an opportunity to consider the idea that he’ll be coming home any minute.
Sigifredo has also shown us his faith. He carries a rosary around his neck, and he always sends his blessings and his prayers. Faith is the only way to face this.
Let us go back to the day your husband was kidnapped. How did you receive the news?
It was awful. I was at the dentist’s office, caught up in one of those long procedures. I couldn’t answer my mobile phone. When I realized, it had already been two hours... I checked my phone and found lots of missed calls. I called and then knew Sigifredo had been kidnapped. I felt the world had just got bigger, and I was so small, I didn’t know what to do, where to go…
I went home, to meet my mother in law. We hugged and faced reality as it was. Nothing else was to be done but wait for my children to come back from school to tell them the news. I didn’t want anyone to tell them until they arrived home. They were 11 and 13 back then…
How do you imagine your relationship with your husband after seven years being separated?
I’ll just have to wait for him to get here. I hope time will help us see what can we build as a couple, what should we do, what experiences we missed because we were separated. We just have to be calm, and keep it real. In so many years you grow, you change. I have had to be both a mother and a father at the same time. It is difficult, I don’t know what Sigifredo thinks about my decisions. I couldn’t confirm what is going to happen, I have to talk to him, get to know what his plans are. We’ll just have to wait, and continue to grow stronger.