Ocala woman stuck in Peru for 3 months due to COVID-19 in need of help

Husband had to put daughter with special needs in assisted living facility because wife was caretaker

With his wife stuck overseas and running out of money, an Ocala man is pleading for help getting her back to Florida.

“The last three months has been pure hell to be realistic. I’m going through a lot,” Joseph Castro said.

Castro's wife, Cecelia Tapia, traveled to Lima, Peru in February to help her grieving brother after the loss of a family member. Now she says she can't get back.

“Nobody calls ... nobody does anything ... no help, it’s no help. [the U.S. Embassy] told me it’s closed - nobody can help me,” said Tapia.

Tapia said she and her husband tried reaching out to the U.S. Embassy several times with no luck. Her original flight back was canceled.

“I was in the hotel for two months and then I couldn’t pay anymore,” Tapia said.

She said she had to dish out more money to renovate a dilapidated home to stay in. She recently got water cut on to the house. Castro is a disabled veteran and said their family is on a fixed income. They also care for their daughter who has special needs.

"My wife stuck in Peru and I have a lot of things to do here. We have a special needs child and I had to put her into an assisted living facility so that someone can take care of my daughter," said Castro.

Tapia said she feels terrible to be away from her daughter.

“I am stuck here and my special needs daughter, she needs me,” she said. “My heart every morning breaks.”

News 6 contacted the U.S. Embassy in Peru and was directed to a website. Three private flights were listed there. One was sold out. One costs $900 a ticket. Another flight leaving this week and costs about $2,500. Castro said he just can’t afford that right now.

The U.S. Embassy in Peru also sent a statement that read in part: “The U.S. Mission to Peru has worked tirelessly over the past eight weeks to repatriate more than 8,900 Americans from Peru, including from remote corners of the country ... The U.S. Embassy in Peru is actively working and in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Interior, regional governments, and other Peruvian government partners to facilitate the repatriation of U.S. citizens who wish to return to the United States. Embassy officials and staff are fully committed to this urgent task.”

“I just need some help ... some guidance because this is taking a toll on me. I’m trying to be strong and it’s getting to me that my family is gone and there’s nothing I can do,” said Castro.

He hopes to reunite with his wife soon. A family friend set up a GoFundMe account to help with expenses for a plane ticket.

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