Police disclose details of five-month ordeal

Updated: February 19, 2005, 5:34 PM ET
Associated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Kidnappers holding the mother of Detroit Tigers pitcher Ugueth Urbina kept her in a dense jungle and surrounded the area with explosives to keep her from fleeing, police said Saturday.

Maura Villarreal was rescued Friday in a police raid that lasted eight hours and ended with one of her abductors dead, two captured and at least seven on the run. Villarreal, 54, was not harmed, police said Saturday while revealing new details of her ordeal.

During more than five months of captivity, Villarreal slept on a mattress in a makeshift tent at an abandoned campground called Las Nieves, or The Snows, in Venezuela's rugged southern mountains.

The nearest village was an eight-hour drive away, and police who eventually raided the camp had to arrive by helicopter and boat up a mountain river in Venezuela's Bolivar province, some 250 miles southeast of Caracas.

The camp was a drug traffickers' hide-out, police said. On Saturday, they blamed Venezuelan and Colombian drug smugglers for the kidnapping, saying authorities found weapons, grenades and a huge cache of at least 1,300 pounds of cocaine at the camp.

Marcos Chavez, director of the federal police, showed reporters a Colombian identity card found at the camp and believed to belong to one of the men who escaped.

Villarreal told reporters late Friday she was not treated "well or poorly," and that the most hurtful thing was having to bear her captors' taunts that her wealthy son did not love her because he did not pay the $6 million ransom demand.

She said she had sent letters to her son and that her captors had filmed videos of her, but Chavez said the family received no evidence of her condition in captivity.

Urbina was reunited with his mother late Friday in Caracas, more than five months after she was abducted from her home in a southeastern suburb of the capital by men dressed as police. The house there stands out as the most expensive on the block -- Urbina's salary this year is $4 million.

The abduction highlighted a rise in kidnappings in the South American country, the homeland of dozens of major league baseball players who at times have become targets for criminals because of their wealth. About three-quarters of the world's kidnappings occur in Latin America, according to experts, with the bulk occurring in Colombia, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil.

Other major leaguers have been victims of crime in Venezuela. Richard Hidalgo of the Texas Rangers was shot in the left forearm during a 2002 carjacking attempt.

Many of the dozens of Venezuelan players in the majors return to their homeland in the winter to play in the Venezuelan league and spend time with their families and friends -- usually in the poor neighborhoods where they grew up.

Urbina's family has been a victim of crime before. His father, Juan, died a decade ago while resisting a robbery attempt in Caracas.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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