CRIME

Venezuela vows all-out hunt for Nationals' Ramos

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"Every major league player has his own security, but we don't know if he had his security there at that time," Alvarez said. He said it's the first time a major league player has been abducted in the country, though other players' relatives have been held for ransom in the past.

Ramos, a 24-year-old catcher, just completed his first season in Washington. (Photo: Associated Press)

Former Boston Red Sox slugger Tony Armas, who lives in Venezuela, said young players have been taking additional security measures due to the risk of kidnappings.

"But many of them are careless sometimes. No one seriously thinks that this can happen to us, and much less in a country like ours where people love baseball," Armas said in a telephone interview.

"Most of us came from humble families. We still have relatives who live in poor areas, we frequent those places and unfortunately the criminals are getting more soulless all the time," he said.

In November 2009, the 56-year-old mother of Victor Zambrano, who retired after a seven-year Major League career, was rescued in a commando-style operation three days after she was kidnapped. The former pitcher's cousin, Richard Mendez Zambrano, had been kidnapped a few days earlier, and was later killed.

In June 2009, Colorado Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba's 11-year-old son and brother-in-law were kidnapped and released a day later.

The mother of former player Ugueth Urbina, who was a two-time All-Star pitcher, spent more than five months in captivity until she was rescued in early 2005.

Venezuela has one of Latin America's highest murder rates, and violent crime has worsened in recent years. As ransom kidnapping has soared, the government passed a revised law in 2009 that stiffened prison sentences for kidnapping and also allows authorities to freeze the banks accounts of victims' families to prevent them from paying ransom.

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