Venezuela expelled a U.S. citizen who had been held on accusations of spying, ahead of the first ministerial meeting between the two countries since elections in April.
Timothy Tracy, 35, left Venezuela after almost two months of detention, Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres said in a message posted on his Twitter account today. Tracy was detained as he was attempting to take off from Caracas airport on April 14.
“Gringo Timothy Hallet Tracy, who was captured spying in our country, has been expelled from national territory,” Rodriguez Torres wrote, using a term often used to describe Americans in the region.
While the Venezuelan government says he was financing opposition groups to generate violence following a contested April 14 presidential election, his lawyer said Tracy was making a documentary about political divisions in Venezuela. The release and expulsion come as Foreign Minister Elias Jaua met U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry today on the sidelines of the Organization of American States General Assembly in Guatemala.
“We have faith and confidence that this meeting marks the start of a good relationship between our countries,” Jaua said, according to comments posted on the Twitter site of Venezuela’s state television channel.
Tracy was escorted to the airport after public prosecutors failed to find evidence for the case against him, Gloria Stifano, a member of the filmmaker’s legal team, said in a text message.
April’s election, which produced the narrowest victory in 45 years, is being contested by the opposition. Maduro had accused the U.S., which didn’t send officials to his inauguration, of infecting late President Hugo Chavez with cancer.
Interior Ministry spokesman Jorge Galindo didn’t return messages left on his phone.
Tracy met with his brother, Emmet Tracy III, on his return to the U.S., his sister, Tiffany Klaasen, said in a phone interview. She declined to disclose their location, saying the family wanted privacy.
Klaasen, 40, of Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, said the family was relieved and expressed gratitude to the U.S. Department of State and her brother’s advisers. She said family members spoke with him frequently by phone and that he was treated well in captivity. She said they did not fear for his life.
“He was valuable,” Klaasen said. “If he was harmed it would have been worse. Everyone is relieved and happy to put this behind us.”
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