A lot of us are aware of the dangers of traveling in South America. Kidnappings of famous locals and any sort of tourists are commonplace to earn money for traffickers, even criminals who seem to specialize in abduction. Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos is only the latest such case, and one of the most prominent regarding an athlete.â†µ
Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times reports on his last visit to Venezuela, and that he's mainly surprised that incidents such as Ramos's abduction don't happen more often than they do. Read about the current state of the country after the jump.â†µ
That said, when we traveled to the city of Valencia, about three hours away, to visit Felix Hernandez, we took a lot of precautions. The driver was armed and we were always conscious of where we were stopping -- even for a quick lunch in a small town -- and who was watching us. We were especially concerned about being stopped at police roadblocks, since not all of them involve real cops. During my first visit to Venezuela in 2005, I arrived just after midnight and my cab was stopped at a police roadblock on a dark sidestreet in downtown Caracas. My cab driver was cursing under his breath and visibly nervous, not knowing what was coming. I was made to get out and hand my passport to police, who had their guns drawn. Turns out, they were real cops looking for foreign drug traffickers. I got my passport back. Needless to say, it was spooky, given what could have happened if the police weren't real.â†µ
Anyhow, the next year, when we got to Valencia from Caracas to visit Hernandez, he couldn't really give us directions to his place by phone because of all the unmarked streets in the area. He simply told us to stop somebody on the street and ask them. So we did. Some older woman told us exactly where to find Hernandez's parents' house. We drove up to it, parked across the street and walked right up to the front door. No gates stopped us. No guards. We could have walked right into his living room.â†µ
And that's the problem.â†µ
As you can imagine, the whole thing sounds pretty scary. Lots of cops everywhere to protect the rich? You can imagine why baseball players who return to their native lands would always be in danger of being kidnapped and held for king's ransoms. Here's hoping Ransom is returned home quickly and as soon as possible.