Venezuelan journalist freed after being kidnapped for a week

CARACAS Mon Apr 14, 2014 12:42pm EDT

CARACAS (Reuters) - A high-profile Venezuelan journalist was freed on Monday after a week-long kidnapping that brought attention once again to the South American country's endemic violent crime.

Nairobi Pinto, 32-year-old head of correspondents for private TV station Globovision, was found in the town of Cua, about 60 km (38 miles) south of the capital, Caracas, authorities said.

"She's going home safe and sound," Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez told a news conference with Pinto, whose disappearance had been front-page news for a week.

Rodriguez said 3,000 police officers had been hunting for Pinto, but no further details were given of who had kidnapped her or in what circumstances she had been released. Kidnappings are rife in Venezuela, mainly for extortion.

"Thank God for giving me strength and for bringing this to an end," said Pinto, whose TV station was for years vehemently anti-government until a change of ownership in 2013.

The United Nations said last week that Venezuela had the world's second-highest murder rate, quoting 2012 figures of 53.7 homicides per 100,000 people. President Nicolas Maduro's government said that figure fell to 39 last year, but a non-government watchdog says the real level was double that.

Pinto was taken by armed gunmen on April 6 returning home from a supermarket in Caracas. Colleagues and relatives had been holding daily vigils and marches to demand her safe return.

Crime has been a major complaint of anti-government protesters who have been taking to the streets since early February, leading to violence in which 41 people have been killed.

The murder in January of a former Miss Venezuela and her ex-husband, in front of their five-year-old daughter, caused particular outrage in the nation of 29 million people.

(Reporting by Diego Ore; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by James Dalgleish and Grant McCool)