April 2, 2005


Jungle rescue hinges on a mutt (TAMARA AUDI, 4/02/05, Detroit FREE PRESS)

Later, the commander would remember the stars.

They were brilliant that February night, adorning the black mountain sky like a diamond tiara on one of Venezuela's dark-haired beauty queens.

It was strange to think of his country's many charms at a time like this. The hour was after 2 a.m., and Joel Rengifo and his men from an anti-kidnapping unit were in six Jeeps, splashing through rugged country on their way to free Maura Villarreal, the kidnapped mother of Tigers pitcher Ugueth Urbina.

The unit had lost an hour pushing the Jeeps out of a muddy riverbed where a bridge had washed away. But they were back on track. By Rengifo's calculations, in three hours they should arrive at the mountain camp where they thought Urbina's mother was held. His calculations were flawed.

By 6 a.m., the commander realized his mistake. They should have reached the camp by now -- in time to ambush the kidnappers in their sleep. But it was almost daylight and they weren't near the camp. They had started the mission much too late.

By the time they closed in on the camp, the sun was full and bright. What local farmers said would be a four-hour trip had taken nearly 10.

The kidnappers would be awake, for sure. But Rengifo's unit had come too far to turn back.

Just a week earlier, their investigation led to two men -- prisoners thought to be former associates of the suspected kidnappers. Rengifo and his men said they compelled the prisoners to speak during an interrogation. That led them to friends of one kidnapping suspect. The friends, in turn, were compelled to tell investigators that Maura -- who was kidnapped last Sept. 1 -- was probably at Las Nieves, or The Snows, an abandoned tourist camp 340 miles south of Caracas, a place so removed from civilization that no roads led there.

The task force immediately started planning the rescue.

Precisely the kind of situation in which torture is not only justified but morally imperative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 2, 2005 10:21 PM

Yeah but I doubt Venezuela has the same menagerie of ACLU and Defense Bar creepie-crawlies that the U.S. has.

Posted by: Eugene S. at April 4, 2005 6:55 AM