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Mother of Venezuelan MLB player abducted

© GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File | Elias Diaz #32 of the Pittsburgh Pirates was in Venezuela visiting his family when his mother was reportedly kidnapped

CARACAS (AFP) - 

The mother of a Venezuelan who plays Major League Baseball in the United States has been kidnapped in her country, the player said in remarks published Friday.

Elias Diaz, a catcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, said his 72-year-old mother was abducted as she chatted with neighbors outside her home in a working class district of the northwest city of Maracaibo.

"It really hurts when they go after your family," Diaz said, according to the newspaper Panorama. "I only ask that they not harm her and return her to me alive."

MLB teams have urged Venezuelan players to be careful when visiting their country, which is in the throes of an acute economic crisis. Their big salaries make them targets for crime.

The report said gunmen in a van pulled up outside the home of the mother, Ana Soto, on Thursday and forced her to get in.

Diaz, 28, said the kidnappers had yet to make contact with him.

The player is in Venezuela visiting his family in Maracaibo. He was not at his mother's house when the kidnappers showed up.

Venezuela is extremely violent, with a homicide rate 14 times the global average, according to the Venezuelan Violence Observatory.

Last November Javier Betancourt, a prospect for the Milwaukee Brewers, was shot in the arm in Caracas.

In 2011, the Venezuelan sports world was shocked by the kidnapping of MLB catcher Wilson Ramos, who played then for the Washington Nationals and is now with the Tampa Bay Rays. Ramos was released, and the kidnappers were sentenced to 20 years in prison.

© 2018 AFP