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Hostage held in cage reveals ordeal

By Rafael Romo, CNN
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Man spends seven months captive
  • Businessman Eduardo Garcia Valseca was kidnapped in Mexico
  • In a seven-month ordeal he was shot twice and lived in a cage barely big enough to stand or lie down
  • Original $8 million ransom was too much for family who negotiated with gang via coded newspaper ads
  • He now raises awareness about how organized crime affects innocents on both sides of U.S.-Mexico border
  • Organized Crime
  • Mexico

(CNN) -- It was the life they dreamed of and they were finally living it in the temperate mountains of Central Mexico. Eduardo Garcia Valseca, a Mexican businessman, and his American wife Jayne, had rehabilitated an old, abandoned ranch near a quaint, colonial town.

"Life was pretty perfect," Jayne says. "We were madly in love and we could never imagine being apart from each other for a second."

They enjoyed outdoor activities around San Miguel de Allende, in Guanajuato state, with their three young children like horseback-riding, gardening, and hiking. When they felt they had comfortably settled in, they joined forces with other families in the community and founded the school their children attended.

Their idyllic world came crashing down one summer morning in 2007.

After dropping the kids off at school, they noticed several cars parked along the road into their property. Without warning, they were attacked by a gang of heavily armed men.

"We were ambushed. Our windows were smashed and we were pulled from the car at gunpoint. My brain didn't even have time to register what was happening," Jayne says.

After driving a few miles, the kidnappers let a bleeding Jayne go, but took Eduardo, who was also injured from the attack, with them. They had both become disoriented by the violent attack and Jayne was barely able to find help before collapsing.

There was no word about Eduardo for several days but the silence was broken with an email to Jayne that confirmed her worst suspicions. It said if she ever wanted to see her husband again she would have to pay a ransom of $8 million.

Eduardo now believes he was kidnapped because his captors believed the family was rich. "They thought that I had a lot of money in cash that I could give them and I did not," he says.

His father used to own a chain of newspapers and the kidnappers perhaps thought it would be easy to get millions of dollars from them. The Garcia Valseca last name was well known in the region around Guanajuato, Mexico, where Eduardo had grown up.

When the family couldn't come up with the ransom fast enough, the brutal beatings began.

As time passed, the kidnappers became impatient and more violent and abusive. Twice he was shot -- once in the leg and once in the arm.

"There were many times when I wanted to lose it, but honestly as a mother that's too much of a luxury when you're going through something like that. You've got to be strong for your kids," says Jayne.

Eduardo also tried to stay mentally strong, despite torturous conditions and only being given enough food and water to keep him alive.

He says the kidnappers kept him in a wooden cage.

The cage built as a closet against a brick or concrete wall had a height of 70 inches (barely high enough for Eduardo to stand up). It was 20 inches wide (two inches less than the distance between his shoulders), and 80 inches long (just enough for him to lie down).

His captors kept a light bulb on and music blaring from speakers inside the cage 24-hours a day.

Months went by without any progress in the negotiations. The captors would send Jayne emails from random accounts they created and then closed asking the family to reply by placing classified ads in code which appeared in Mexican newspapers.

When the kidnappers realized that no amount of torture was going to produce the $8 million they wanted, they began to considerably scale down their demands.

The amount they finally accepted in exchange for Eduardo's release remains a closely guarded secret.

When Eduardo Garcia Valseca finally returned home in January 2008, after seven-and-a-half months in captivity, he weighed less than 100 pounds and could barely move or speak.

"He was so weak and had been through so much that he couldn't even smile," Jayne says. "He could barely talk above a whisper and it took several hours of giving him liquids and foods for him to even be able to talk and to finally smile with the children."

The family eventually moved to the United States, and launched a crusade to create awareness about how organized crime is affecting innocent lives on both sides of the border.

They have protested in front of the White House and are also constantly calling on Mexican authorities to address the issue.

"How is it possible that one human being or a group of human beings could do this to another human?" asks Jayne. "It's the most incredible thing."

And the culprits, they say, aren't just Mexican.

Eduardo says the chief captor spoke English with an American accent -- the others spoke South American Spanish.

"This has now become an international network of terrorism and this is why it's so dangerous to the United States," Eduardo says. He called his ordeal a threat that knows no boundaries.