Kidnapper Captured in Venezuela is Colombian Guerilla

The kidnapper of the mother of major league baseball player Ugueth Urbina has been identified, four weeks after his capture. According to Venezuelan authorities he is a member of Colombia's Guerilla force. His extradition to Colombia is expected soon.

Caracas, March 16, 2005—The identity of a man in custody for the kidnapping of the major leaguer Ugueth Urbina’s mother was confirmed by Venezuelan police officials, yesterday.  According to Jesse Chacón, Venezuela’s Minister of Justice and the Interior, Juan José Martínez Vega, aka “El Chiguiro”, is a leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Maura Villareal, the mother of Detroit Tigers pitcher Ugueth Urbina, was rescued by Venezuelan police in the South-Western state of Bolívar on 18 February, 2005, after missing for 6 months.

Martínez’s idenitity was in question since his arrest, with police officials initially identifying him as Gentil Alvis Patiño, with several aliases.  His links to the FARC were suspected from the beginning, however, leading the Colombian government to send an investigative team to Venezuela to speak with the suspect.  He was eventually identified in person by a former-associate brought from Colombia specifically for that purpose.

On Monday, Colombian officials handed over documents proving the identity of “El Chiguiro.”  The suspect’s identity was difficult to ascertain in part because he was in possession of false documents identifying him as a Venezuelan citizen.  According to Chacón, “El Chiguiro” paid 10 million Bolívares (US$4,700) for the documentation.

Shortly after the arrest of “El Chiguiro,” Colombian President Alvaro Uribe spoke to his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chávez by phone to thank him for Venezuela’s cooperation with Colombian officials.  Colombia expressed its desire to extradite Martínez, and now that his identity has been confirmed, they are expected to formalize their request before Venezuela’s Supreme Court.


In December, 2004 Venezuelan National Guardsmen, bribed by Colombian officials, kidnapped Rodrigo Granda, the “Foreign Minister” of the FARC, in the Venezuelan capital Caracas, and smuggled him into Colombia in the trunk of a car.  The kidnapping provoked a harsh rebuke from President Chávez, who called it a violation of Venezuelan sovereignty and recalled his Ambassador from Colombia for “consultations.”  The US State Department fanned the flames of the crisis by siding squarely with Colombia and accusing Venezuela of harboring ‘terrorists.

The crisis was eventually resolved through the diplomacy of Cuba, Brazil, and Peru, and a face-to-face meeting between Chávez and Uribe, but not before it cost both countries millions of dollars in lost trade.  At the meeting, held in Caracas, the two Presidents agreed to cooperate more closely in police-matters in future.

The arrest of “El Chiguiro” has provided the two countries with just such an opportunity, and so far both countries have treated the other with respect, following procedure, and expressing their desire to cooperate in full.

Justice Minister Chacón said he that Colombia would use the legal mechanism of extradition in order to bring Martínez to Colombia for trial, and that Venezuela was awaiting the formal request.