Armed men in Venezuela have kidnapped a Costa Rican diplomat and are holding him for ransom in the latest such incident in the South American country, officials say.
Diplomats in Venezuela have been targeted in several attacks in recent months, underlining rampant insecurity that mostly affects Venezuelans and which voters say is their biggest concern as President Hugo Chavez campaigns for a new six-year term in the October 7 election.
Guillermo Cholele, a trade attache at the Costa Rican Embassy in Caracas, was seized on Sunday night as he returned to his home in La Urbina, a middle-class neighborhood in the eastern part of the capital.
"A telephone call to the diplomat's home mentioned a ransom request and added that he was in a good state of health," Costa Rica's foreign ministry said in a statement.
Private TV station Globovision said that, in connection with the kidnapping, security officials were searching floor-by-floor through two half-finished city skyscrapers late on Monday that have been occupied by poor families for several years.
Venezuelan media said the kidnappers had jumped from a green Ford Explorer and forced Cholele into their vehicle while one of them stole his gray Mini Cooper, which had diplomatic plates.
Local media said the trade attache was 55 and had lived in Venezuela with his wife and two children for the last six years.
The so-called express kidnappings have become common in Venezuela - usually short and motivated purely by money.
There has been a worrisome surge in violence against diplomats in the country during the past year.
Mexico's ambassador and his wife were briefly kidnapped in January, and last year a consul from Chile was shot and beaten during an abduction in Caracas that lasted several hours.
A diplomat from Belarus was also kidnapped last year.