Saturday, November 12, 2011

Venezuelan twitter said Hugo Chavez authorized rescue operation that freed Wilson Ramos in flurry of gunfire. Updated to include V. Zambrano family

UPDATE: "In 2009, kidnappers abducted and killed the cousin of Victor Zambrano, a former major league pitcher, before kidnapping his mother." (5th parag.) (I hadn't seen Zambrano's case mentioned in other MLB/Venezuela related reports. ed.) Ramos said his kidnappers had Colombian accents and said they were going to get 'a ton of cash' for him. He says he's 'going to start playing' for the Venezuelan league as soon as he can. "The kidnapping ordeal of Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos ended after two days when Venezuelan police commandos swooped in to rescue him in a flurry of gunfire and arrested five alleged abductors.

Ramos said he was happy and thankful to be alive, and that the final moments had been hair-raising as police and the kidnappers exchanged heavy fire in the remote mountainous area where he was being held....

Ramos, 24, had not been seen or heard from since he was seized at gunpoint outside his home Wednesday night and whisked away in an SUV. ...

Five men were arrested in the kidnapping, including a Colombian "linked to paramilitary groups and to kidnapping groups," El Aissami said.

"I don't know who those people were. I know they're Colombians by their accent," Ramos said. "Three guys grabbed me there in front of my house, they took me to another SUV and from there they took me into the mountains," in central Carabobo state.

He said his abductors spoke little to him. "They simply told me to cooperate, that they were going to ask for a ton of cash for me."

"They put me in a room with a bed. I was lying there," he said. ...

Ramos had recently returned to his homeland after his rookie year with the Nationals to play during the offseason in the Venezuelan league.

"As soon as I feel all right, I'm going to start playing," Ramos said.

"They didn't physically harm me, but psychologically I underwent very great harm," he said.

Ramos had been just outside his door with relatives on Wednesday when he was abducted in his working-class neighborhood in Valencia, about 90 miles (150 kilometers) west of Caracas. Authorities tracked down the abductors after initially locating their stolen SUV abandoned in a nearby town on Thursday....

President Hugo Chavez had authorized the "rescue operation by air" that freed Ramos, Information Minister Andres Izarra said on his Twitter account.

Security has increasingly become a concern for Venezuelan players and their families as a wave of kidnappings has hit the wealthy as well as the middle class. Althouh Ramos is the first major leaguer known to have been kidnapped, relatives of several players have previously been kidnapped for ransom, and in two cases have been killed....(links below, ed.)

  • Izarra praised the authorities' handling of the rescue, saying that the police "hit a tremendous home run."

The AP doesn't mention names (like Henry Blanco's brother or Ugie Urbina's mother) but says "relatives of several players have been kidnapped" and 2 killed. AP mentioned 3 times that this was the "first" MLB player known to have been kidnapped in Venezuela

  • which I guess is good for tourism.

12/3/2008, "Henry Blanco's brother killed in Venezuela" USA Today

9/2/2004, "Urbina leaves Tigers for Venezuela," ESPN

2/24/2005, "Pudge: 'He seems relaxed -- and happy'," ESPN, Stark

  • Ugie Urbina's mother was kidnapped and held for five and a half months in the jungle before being rescued.

Ugie Urbina in jail for 14 years in Venezuela. Europress photo (not sure of date but I first posted this photo on 3/26/2010)
  • ------------------
  • In May 2008 US State Dept. said this about Venezuela:
"SAFETY AND SECURITY: Violent crime in Venezuela is pervasive, both in the capital, Caracas, and in the interior.
  • Armed robberies take place in broad daylight throughout the city, including areas generally presumed safe and frequented by tourists.
Well-armed criminal gangs operate with impunity, often setting up fake police checkpoints. Investigation of all crime is haphazard and ineffective. Only a very small percentage of criminals are tried and convicted."...


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