US ballplayer’s kidnapped mother is released

Ana Soto, 72, the mother of Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Elias Diaz, shown here in September 2017, was abducted outside her home in Maracaibo
AFP

Caracas (AFP) – The mother of Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Elias Diaz was released Sunday, three days after being kidnapped in the Venezuelan city of Maracaibo, authorities said.

“Thank God, our security forces were able to rescue Mrs Ana Soto,” Zulia’s state governor Omar Prieto said on Twitter.

Ana Soto, 72, was abducted Thursday as she chatted with neighbors outside her home in a working-class area of the northwestern city.

Five police officers were arrested after the abduction, local press reports said Sunday.

The five arrested officers work for state police, according to regional newspaper La Nacion. 

One is a neighbor of the family and provided his colleagues with “all the information”needed to carry out the crime, the report said. Prieto confirmed that they were suspects.

It said the group was detained Saturday by the national police agency CICPC.

“It really hurts when they go after your family,” Diaz said in remarks published Friday by the newspaper Panorama. “I only ask that they not harm her and return her to me alive.”

Diaz, 28, is in Venezuela visiting his family, but was not with his mother when the kidnappers drove up in a van and forced her inside.

Major league teams in the United States have urged Venezuelan players to be careful when visiting their country, which is in the throes of an acute economic crisis.

Their big salaries make them targets for crime, and Venezuela is extremely violent, with a homicide rate 14 times the global average, according to the Venezuelan Violence Observatory.

In 2011, the Venezuelan sports world was shocked by the kidnapping of MLB catcher Wilson Ramos, then with the Washington Nationals and now playing for the Tampa Bay Rays. The kidnappers were caught and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

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