As 8 a.m. in Washington approaches, it has now been roughly 37 hours since Wilson Ramos was kidnapped from his home Wednesday evening in a town near Valencia Venezuela.
There is no news to update at this point, with the status quo from Thursday evening standing. The police have found the car they believe was used in the abduction, they’ve developed sketches of two of the kidnappers and they confirmed Thursday afternoon that Ramos was still alive.
Otherwise, there’s been no public demands made to Ramos’ family and the rest of the situation is something of an unknown as the entire baseball world and the eyes of Venezuela have turned to Ramos’ family and the ongoing search for the Nationals catcher.
Here are the facts as we’ve known them to this point. For a timeline of yesterday’s developments, click here. For a more in-depth story on the situation with context on Venezuela, kidnappings and first-person accounts of things there, click here.
Here is a sampling of front pages from Venezuela with headlines like “Venezuela requests the release of Wilson Ramos” and “Ramos’ kidnapping dismays baseball world” and this one, with a quote from Wilson’s sister Milanyela, “Wilson is a live and he’ll be back soon”
– A reminder that Nationals fans have begun to spread word of a fan-led candlelight vigil at Nationals Park tonight at 6 p.m. and they’ve begun a fan page for Ramos’ return at www.freewilsonramos.com.
Everything I know about the situation throughout the day will be updated here. Please follow on twitter @acomak for instant updates and keep Ramos and his family in your thoughts and prayers.
Any updates today will be posted here with a timestamp.
10 a.m. (ET) - There has been no update on Ramos’ status at this time but I just spoke with family friend Marfa Mata who is with Ramos’ family and has been since he was abducted on Wednesday. Her voice was tired and stressed but she said the family and friends are all keeping faith and trying to remain positive.
“We’re still like the first day,” she said. “No calls, no messages, nothing from the kidnappers.”
“The family is trying to keep a good face, but it’s not easy,” she said. “We’re trying to have faith, you know, but it’s not easy.”
There is some good news (or at least the hope is that it’s good news) that investigators told the family a few hours ago that “the investigations are very advanced and not to worry because ‘We’re going to finish this as soon as possible.’”
The hope among all is that good news will come soon.
10:25 a.m. (ET) - Authorities have confirmed to the Associated Press what Mata told The Washington Times — that the investigations are advanced. Rafael Rojas passes along that there are reports in Venezuela of aerial operations being involved.
From the AP: “(Deputy Justice Minister Enrique) Rojas told the state television Friday that the government of President Hugo Chavez “is working 24 hours a day to solve this case.”“
There appears to be a groundswell of movement surrounding the search and a strong push from the Venezuelan government to make progress in the investigation. At this point we can hope that is a good indication for Ramos.
11:45 a.m. (ET) - Rafael Rojas of Viva Colorado has obtained one of the booklets being handed out at Venezuelan ballparks that contains tips on how to avoid kidnappings while in the country.
He tweeted out some of the tips on his twitter account, but here are a few of the tips:
— Be alert, be careful… Always display a sure mood with energy and decision.
— Don’t give information to strangers on your business activities.
— Avoid showing off your wealth, avoid using the same route to and from work every day. Avoid poorly-lit places and try going out in groups.
— Don’t use “mom,” “dad,” “son,” as phone contacts and before leaving your house, see if there’s any suspicious activity or vehicles parked for too long.
— Most importantly — Never pay for ransom; call police immediately.
Also, this news video from Venezuela has surfaced that shows the inside of the car used to abduct Ramos on Wednesday night with a burnt-out interior. It is difficult to know what is being said because it’s spoken far too quickly for me to understand but there are good images here.
11:50 a.m. (ET) - Kathe Vilera, the Tigres de Aaragua spokeswoman, reminds everyone that while they know the concern and worry for Ramos is great, they ask for understanding about the need to keep things “tight.”
“It is understood that everyone wants to know what’s going on with Wilson,” Vilera tweeted. “But remember that in these cases, it is key that… things are tight.”
12:50 p.m. (ET) - Courtesy of Luigi de Guzman who graciously offered to translate the video posted above from a news site in Venezuela, here are a few excerpts.
With regard to the portion of the video pertaining to the car in which Ramos was abducted, here’s the gist of what the video says:
“It appeared that (the car) was partially burned in the interior, from which it is assumed that the criminals intended to dispose of it.”
The video also hinted to the fact that many Venezuelan ballplayers are now fearing that something similar will (or at least certainly could) happen to them.
“It isn’t easy, you know, to be in this situation,” Gustavo Marcano (who has been identified as Ramos’ agent) says in the video. “It’s contagious. Maybe a lot of them fear ‘Well, this could happen to me, too.’”
Rafael Rojas adds that the police in the video say they expect the Ramos case to lead them to solve other kidnappings. By that, Rojas clarifies, they mean they expect Ramos’ kidnapping is the product of an organized and experienced gang.
Many thanks to Luigi for translating the video and Rojas for his additional information.
1:30 p.m. (ET) - Ultimas Noticias, a Venezuelan publication, reports that 300 law enforcement officers are on the Ramos case, seemingly backing up the police’s promise that they are making a significant push to find the Nationals catcher. UN also reports that a second SUV, also believed to have been used, has been found.
1:45 p.m. (ET) - It appears that moments ago via twitter the Venezuelan police issued a second assurance that Wilson Ramos is alive.
Here is an excerpt from that statement:
(CICPC) denied the death of Wilson Ramos, 24-year-old, who was kidnapped last Wednesday night when he was outside his home in Valencia, Carabobo state. The Body of Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations (CICPC), denied the occurrence of the alleged corpse of Wilson Ramos in the vicinity of the Plaza de Toro de Valencia. So far the investigations continue around the disappearance of the player.
The statement also said that the sketches the police are using will be released through the media later today and that all indications are that they are dealing with an organized operation that had been planning to kidnap Wilson for some time.
5:15 p.m. (ET) - Despite what appeared to be significant progress earlier in the day, Ramos’ family is still waiting without any news, Mata told The Washington Times. As we approach the 48-hour mark since Ramos was kidnapped, they are doing their best to remain calm.
Globovision in Venezuela is reporting that Major League Baseball’s Department of Investigations has visited the Ramos family home to “bring them hope and confidence.”
Meanwhile, the games continue to go on in Venezuela and Ramos’ team the Tigres de Aragua have posted this banner in center field in honor of the search for Ramos. It reads, “Free Wilson.”
– A reminder that the fan-sponsored candlelight vigil at Nationals Park is set to begin at 6 p.m. Details can be found here.
9:45 p.m. (ET) - Marfa Mata, Ramos’ family friend, has tweeted that “Wilson appeared!” It is unclear at this time if that means that Wilson has been freed or if that simply means his captors showed him to authorities. Will continue to update.
10 p.m. (ET) - Wilson Ramos has been freed. The Venezuelan Information Minister has confirmed the good news and he will be delivered home shortly.