The US Major League baseball player, Wilson Ramos, who was kidnapped by armed men, has been found alive, according to Venezuela’s government officials.
According to Information Minister Andres Izarra, security forces had located Wilson Ramos in the Montalban mountains near to where he was seized on Wednesday.
Wilson Ramos, 24, is a catcher for the Washington Nationals team.
It was reported that the families of wealthy athletes in Venezuela are periodically targeted in similar ways.
“The baseball player Ramos found alive by security forces in mountainous zone,” tweeted Andres Izarra.
Andres Izarra said it was “a rescue operation by air”, which was authorized earlier in the day by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Information Minister said three men were arrested, including a Colombian “linked to paramilitary groups and to kidnapping groups”.
Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami said on TV that Wilson Ramos was “safe and sound”.
Wilson Ramos’ mother celebrated, exclaiming on television: “Thanks to God!”
The woman said she had spoken to her son by telephone, saying: “He’s fine.”
There are so far no details of how Wilson Ramos was located.
The baseball player was seized at his mother’s home in Valencia, 150 km (90 miles) west of the capital Caracas, after going to Venezuela to play games during the US close season.
Sports figures have found themselves the target of violent crime in Venezuela in the past, but this is thought to be the first case targeting a baseball player in the US Major League.
Most kidnappings in Venezuela are carried out to extort a ransom, but there have been no reports of any ransom demand in this case.
The Institute for Investigations on Coexistence and Citizen Security (Incosec), a Venezuelan think tank, estimated that last year Venezuela saw 1,179 kidnappings, or about three cases every day.
The rising rate of violent crime has become a major source of public concern in Venezuela in recent years, with many accusing President Hugo Chavez’s government of not doing enough to combat the problem.