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The Pittsburgh Pirates have announced that Ana Soto, the 72-year-old mother of catcher Elias Diaz, has been safely recovered three days after being abducted in Venezuela.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Soto went missing in the family’s hometown of Maracaibo, which is the state capital of Zulia, on Thursday. Six people have been detained in connection with the kidnapping. Five of them were members of a police anti-drug team, Zulia state governor Omar Prieto announced on Monday. They are currently under investigation for possible involvement.
The sixth person was reportedly a neighbor to Soto.
According to BBC, the rescue took place on Sunday. A group of national and local police officers were involved in the operation. Soto was found unharmed and recovered safely. No ransom had reportedly been paid at the time of the rescue.
A friend from Venezuela sent me this picture of @Pirates catcher Elias Diaz’s mom after she was saved from her captors / Un colega de Venezuela me envió esta foto de la madre de Elías Díaz después de ser liberada tras su secuestro ¡Enhorabuena! pic.twitter.com/qzLo5O1H63
— Marly Rivera (@MarlyRiveraESPN) February 12, 2018
Kidnappings remain on the rise in Venezuela due to the country’s increasingly unstable and violent social and political climate. Baseball players and their families have been in the middle of it all too often. In 2011, then Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was kidnapped by four alleged abductors in Venezuela as they sought financial gain. Ramos was found unharmed two days later, but authorities had to orchestrate a dangerous rescue that included exchanging gunfire with Ramos’ captors.
When you hear that police officers might be willingly involved in such incidents, it becomes all the more frightening. Fortunately, the outcome was a good one for Soto and her family.
“We are relieved and overjoyed to learn that Elias Diaz’ mother, Ana Soto, has been rescued and safely reunited with her family,” Pirates president Frank Coonelly said in a statement on Monday. “We are incredibly grateful for the swift and effective work of the local law enforcement officials in Venezuela who brought this terrifying act to the safe conclusion for which we had all prayed.”
“As an organization, we will continue to support Elias and his family as they move forward together.”
Diaz had been in the United States preparing for the upcoming season at the time of the kidnapping. There was no word if Diaz was expected to be with the team when pitchers and catchers report to spring training on Tuesday.
The 27-year-old has appeared in 67 games for Pittsburgh over the last three seasons and is looking to win a backup role behind veteran Francisco Cervelli.
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