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    Costa Rican Diplomat is Latest Venezuela Kidnap Victim Freed

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    (RTTNews) – A Costa Rican diplomat who was abducted in the Venezuelan capital city of Caracas earlier this week has been released unharmed by his captors, Venezuelan officials said Tuesday.

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    In a Twitter message posted Tuesday, Venezuelan Interior Minister Tarek El Aissami said the release of Guillermo Cholele, the abducted Costa Rican diplomat, was the result of intensive investigative work and police pressure.

    Without giving further details, Aissami said Cholele was in good health and was in the process of being reunited with his family. The interior minister added that further details about Cholele’s release would be provided later.

    Cholele, a trade attache at the Costa Rican Embassy in Caracas, was abducted in the north-eastern neighborhood of La Urbina in Caracas as he was arriving home in his diplomatic car Sunday night.

    The Costa Rican Foreign Ministry had earlier said the abductors demanded a ransom for Cholele’s release, and provided assurances that he was in good health. The ministry also stated that the 55-year-old diplomat needed medication for a heart condition and high blood pressure.

    According to Costa Rica’s Ambassador to Venezuela Nazareth Avendano, Cholele had been stationed in Venezuela for the last six years with family.

    Earlier, Cholele’s abduction had prompted Costa Rica’s Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Roverrsi to term Caracas as “one of the most dangerous cities in the world.” Roverrsi said Cholele’s abduction in Caracas was “not an isolated case.”

    Such high-profile abductions for ransom, popularly known as “express kidnappings,” are common in Venezuela, which has been witnessing a sharp increase in violent crimes, kidnappings and murders in recent years. The country presently has one of the highest crime rates in the world.

    In January, Mexican Ambassador Carlos Pujalte and his wife Paloma Ojeda were briefly abducted from an affluent Caracas neighborhood before being freed hours later near a slum in the Venezuelan capital city.

    Last November, Chile’s Consul-General in Caracas was kidnapped while leaving a city hotel. The Chilean diplomat was beaten up and shot in the leg by his captors before he was eventually released. A month later, a Belarusian diplomat was also briefly abducted in Caracas.

    Last month, the teenage daughter of a Chilean diplomat was shot dead by the police for allegedly failing to stop at a roadblock. The continued incidents of violence is a key issue in campaigning for the forthcoming presidential elections in Venezuela.

    PROBLEM POLITICIZED

    A diplomat from Belarus was also kidnapped last year. Last month, the teenage daughter of a Chilean diplomat was shot dead by police after the car she was in failed to stop at a roadblock in the western city of Maracaibo.

    Venezuelan’s favorite sport has also been hit: U.S. Major League Baseball star Wilson Ramos was kidnapped while visiting his parents last November. He was held in the mountains for two days before being rescued by security forces.

    The country’s opposition, which hopes to topple Chavez in the October 7 election and end his 13 years in power, says his government only shows any urgency in its fight against crime when foreign or high-profile victims are involved.

    Seeking to counter that impression, the government quickly arrested 12 members of the CICPC investigative police over the killing of the consul’s daughter, and four people – including a former policeman – for the Mexican ambassador’s abduction.

    Last week, Chavez’s socialist administration also launched two new organizations to combat criminality.

    While voters appear not to hold the president personally responsible for one of the world’s highest crime rates, his government is under growing pressure – and the latest diplomatic kidnapping quickly became politicized.

    Some Chavez supporters suggest the violence against diplomats may be an opposition plot to discredit the government and tarnish the achievements of his self-styled “revolution.”

    Diosdado Cabello, the National Assembly boss and a staunch ally of the president, said he hoped the recent attacks were just a “coincidence” and nothing more sinister, while pro-Chavez talk show host Mario Silva said the opposition was following the violent playbook of a brief coup against Chavez a decade ago.

    “What better way to show the international community that Venezuela doesn’t even have the capacity to protect diplomats,” Silva said on Monday. “They’re following the exact same script.”

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