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Wilson Ramos Kidnapped: Nationals Catcher Abducted in Venezuela

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on November 10, 2011 3:01 PM

Teammates, friends, and fans are hoping for the safe return of Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos, kidnapped from his family's home in Venezuela.

Police say gunmen forced Ramos, 24, into an SUV and drove away Wednesday night. The vehicle was found abandoned Thursday morning.

Major League Baseball has gone to bat for the promising rookie. It's sent a team of investigators to Venezuela to help track down Ramos and his kidnappers.

Aside from that, there's really not much else U.S. authorities, or courts, can officially do.

That's mainly because Ramos is a citizen of Venezuela, where he continues to play for that country's baseball league.

Laws are different for U.S. citizens. Under an international law doctrine called the "passive personality principle," an American who falls victim to crime in a foreign country may be able to pursue justice in U.S. courts. The defendant's nationality doesn't matter.

Other laws allow stateside authorities to charge foreigners with terrorism-related crimes that hurt Americans abroad.

But bringing foreign defendants to the United States for trial is somewhat tricky. Extradition from a foreign country only takes place if both nations agree. Here, the rocky diplomatic relationship between the United States and Venezuela would also come into play.

MLB has recently attempted to bridge that divide, as its investigators try to forge closer ties with Latin American law enforcement. It's not clear how Venezuela's government has responded to that pitch, The New York Times reports.

Venezuelan police say they believe Wilson Ramos is alive, but are not elaborating. The country's justice minister vows an all-out search until Wilson Ramos is safe at home.

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