The Man Who Rescued Nats' Ramos

The Man Who Rescued Nats' Ramos

The grainy video begins with footage of a slow-moving river, the camera operator panning the lens clockwise across the water, sweeping past the dense Venezuelan jungle that chokes either river bank. Sounds of chirping birds can be heard in the background, while sunlight dances on the brown ripples. There is a small motorboat moored in the soft mud near a clearing, and a stray white dog cautiously approaches the water's edge.

It is an idyllic scene, some 450 miles south of Caracas, with no apparent signs of the fierce firefight that had taken place an hour earlier in this remote section of the country.

Suddenly, the video trains on two armed men, clad in dark clothes, on the move, splashing through shallow water, maneuvering single file up a small incline and then along a path bordered by dense brush. They disappear from view momentarily, while the camera operator - Joel Rengifo (prounounced JOE-el WREN-gee-foe) - stops to identify the decimated area around him: a plastic bag filled with American Eagle bullet shells, some loose wiring, shreds of fabric hanging from a tree, two filthy mattresses under canopies, and a corpse of one of the kidnappers Rengifo had killed during the gun battle, the body clad in a red shirt and blue pants, part of the torso exposed and the skin a sickly gray color. The victim's right arm is outstretched, the right index finger still partially touching the trigger of an M-16 automatic rifle. Blood stains are still fresh on the leaves and mud. Near a makeshift kitchen area is the charred remains of a propane gas tank.

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