Abducted Nationals Player Rescued In Venezuela

Venezuelan police rescued Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos on Friday, two days after he was kidnapped, officials announced.

Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami said on state television that 24-year-old Ramos was “safe and sound” and that he was rescued by police.

It was unclear why he was released — or if a ransom was paid.

Information Minister Andres Izarra initially announced the news on Twitter, saying: “The baseball player Ramos found alive by security forces in mountainous zone.”

Armed men seized Ramos at gunpoint Wednesday night outside his home in a working-class neighborhood in the city of Valencia, setting off a nationwide search in a country hard hit by kidnappings.

The family huddled with police, awaiting demands from the suspected kidnappers.

Authorities said Thursday that they had found a stolen SUV used by the kidnappers abandoned in a nearby town.

The abduction was the first known kidnapping of a major league baseball player in a country that has dozens of players on big league rosters in the U.S., and it brought a renewed focus on worsening violent crime in Venezuela. More than 1,000 people have been kidnapped in the country this year.

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.

Bodyguards typically shadow major leaguers when they return to their homeland to play in Venezuela’s winter baseball league, but it was unclear what precautions, if any, Ramos was taking while at his family’s home.

Major League Baseball officials said it was the first kidnapping of a major leaguer that they could recall.

Fans in both Venezuela and Washington had held candlelight vigils and prayed for his safe release.

NPR’s Juan Forero contributed to this report, which contains material from The Associated Press

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