MLB player back home safe after Venezuelan kidnapping ordeal

Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos rescued after two days in captivity

Eleven people were arrested by Venezuelan authorities for allegedly taking part in the kidnapping of Wilson Ramos, Major League Baseball catcher for the Washington Nationals, who was abducted from his family's home on the night of November 9.

The 24-year-old, who is playing for the Aragua Tigers in Venezuela's winter league season, was rescued by a large contingent of air and land forces two days after his kidnapping.

"I am happy to be alive," Ramos said after his ordeal, while explaining that he was held in a room at a mountain hideout.

The entire rescue operation, authorized by President Hugo Chávez, took 11 hours. Ramos' kidnapping made headlines across the United States, focusing attention on the serious crime situation in the South American nation. According to unofficial figures, some 1,800 kidnappings take place in Venezuela each year. On Tuesday, Chilean authorities said that their country's consul in Caracas was wounded in an express kidnapping.

Tareck El Aissami, who serves as both justice and interior minister, said that Venezuelan intelligence officials were able to track him down by studying the group's modus operandi. The ball player was found at a farm near the small town of Bejuma, Carabobo state after a shootout between the kidnappers and police ensued. The perpetrators then fled, leaving Ramos behind.

The major leaguer was sitting on the porch of his home in Valencia when a group of armed men pulled up in a vehicle and threatened to kill him if he didn't get inside. Ramos said that he could determine by their accents that they were Colombian. "This won't be easy to forget because it is something you have to manage well psychologically. But I am going to try to put this behind me and go forward," he told the Italian news agency ANSA. "They [the kidnappers] spoke about a lot of money that my family could pay for my freedom; that's all they talked about."

Ramos made his MLB debut last season with the Minnesota Twins and moved to Washington earlier this year. He had just started training with the Aragua Tigers a few days before his kidnapping. Even though Ramos is a Venezuelan citizen, the US State Department had been following the developments.

"It's obviously of great concern to us," said Mark Toner, US State Department spokesman on Thursday. "And we are standing by to help the family, in whatever way possible, if they contact us." The FBI had also offered assistance to the Venezuelans.

Authorities identified the 11 suspects as Venezuelan and Colombian nationals, including the elderly parents of one kidnapper.

On Saturday, Chávez said he was "delighted" with the work by the security forces and invited Ramos to play a friendly against the president's own team.

"Get the mascot ready because not even Ramos will be able to stop the fiery pitches I plan to throw," he said.

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