AUSTIN — Two cousins from Austin say they were kidnapped and tortured for days by a militia group while they were visiting in Nicaragua.
Kevin Zeledon and Lester Treminio were able to escape and finally landed back in Austin on Friday, but say they are grateful to be back home alive.
"They jumped a big fence, arrested us and kicked us a few times," said Treminio, tear-eyed remembering the terror of being taken away.
The two Austinites, whose families still live in Nicaragua, say paramilitaries took over their home, then kidnapped and tortured them.
"We couldn't fit in the cell to lay down and there was nothing in there but feces," Zeledon said.
After several days in a jail cell, the two were released.
"The paramilitary were roaming around, so we practically had to run for our lives, so we ran to a cathedral," Treminio explained.
"Some of us didn't have shoes, so they just left barefooted," Zeledon said.
After several days in hiding, the cousins got in contact with relatives to then make their way to Austin.
Just days before their kidnapping, the U.S. Department of State issued a travel warning recommending for anyone looking to visit Nicaragua to reconsider.
Officials say heavily armed, government-controlled parapolice groups are taking over committing crimes across the country.
"They're going to kill you but you can't do much because the cops work with them," Zeledon said.
The U.S. Embassy told KVUE they are aware of the kidnappings of both Zeledon and Treminio and said they are doing whatever it takes to protect any U.S. citizen outside of the country.
Even though they are now safe, the cousins said it's an experience is something they will never forget.
"I remember just standing there waiting for the hit of the bullet. You really couldn't do nothing at that moment because they were looking to kill," Zeledon said.
Treminio said he is worried about his wife and child, who stayed back in Nicaragua. He plans to petition for asylum, but is afraid that the long process will give paramilitaries more time to retaliate against his family.